A Walgreens store is seen in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. February 11, 2021.  REUTERS/Eileen T. Meslar

Opioid trial jurors ask witnesses questions as judiciary reviews practice

(Reuters) – In a trial over whether or not three pharmacy chains fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic, a Walgreens government was requested how the corporate documented crimson flags of potential ache tablet misuse and whether or not it provided the overdose antidote naloxone at no cost.

It wasn’t an opposing lawyer who requested these questions. Nor the choose. Quite, it was jurors within the federal court docket in Cleveland, Ohio, who posed these questions within the first trial the pharmacies have confronted over the opioid epidemic.

Scheduled to wrap-up on Monday, the trial is among the many highest-profile situations of a federal court docket letting jurors pose questions to witnesses, a practice that might turn into commonplace because of a rule change the federal judiciary is debating.

Members of the Advisory Committee on Proof Guidelines expressed help at a gathering final week for a draft rule guiding judges on permitting jurors to ask questions.

That rule would let jurors ask questions in writing, with the events allowed to object and the choose allowed a rewrite earlier than they’re posed to witnesses.

Questioning by jurors has lengthy existed, although the practice has fallen into disuse.

Whereas some courts have warned about jurors asking prejudicial questions or reworking into advocates for one facet mid-trial, supporters say permitting questions, with safeguards, might result in extra knowledgeable, engaged juries.

The American Bar Affiliation in 2005 endorsed the practice in civil circumstances as a option to improve juror participation.

The draft rule is impartial on whether or not judges ought to really let juries ask questions, however committee chair Patrick Schiltz, a federal choose from Minnesota, stated on the Nov. 5 assembly “there’s no denying it will result in more jury questioning.”

All federal appeals courts have dominated on the practice, with various levels of approval, with some warning it dangers turning jurors into advocates and compromising their neutrality.

In Cleveland, U.S. District Decide Dan Polster, who oversees hundreds of opioid lawsuits, has let jurors submit written questions within the present trial by two Ohio counties in opposition to Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, CVS Well being Corp and Walmart Inc.

The questions have addressed some core claims within the case, the place the counties accused the pharmacies of getting failed to forestall opioid tablets from flooding their communities or determine “red flags” of misuse. The businesses deny wrongdoing.

Throughout testimony on Oct. 20, for instance, a juror requested Tasha Polster, Walgreens’ head of pharmacy integrity, concerning the obvious lack of an ordinary means to doc crimson flags. (She just isn’t associated to the choose.)

“Doesn’t this make it more difficult for the pharmacists to be able to do their due diligence in a timely manner, especially if notes or prior notes in the system can or are deleted due to space limitations?” the juror requested.

Tasha Polster responded {that a} standardized course of “makes sense,” however pharmacists have to test a number of locations within the pc system for various causes.

The juror questions have been learn aloud by the legal professionals after they completed posing their very own questions to witnesses. The defendants haven’t been objecting, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Frank Gallucci of Plevin & Gallucci stated.

A lawyer for Walgreens, Kaspar Stoffelmayr of Bartlit Beck, had no remark.

On the advisory committee assembly, Schiltz stated he has resisted letting jurors ask questions as a result of the eighth U.S. Circuit Courtroom of Appeals disfavors the practice however may permit it if the draft rule have been adopted.

A Might 2022 vote is predicted on whether or not the U.S. Judicial Convention’s chief guidelines committee ought to think about adopting the rule.

“My hope is that this will give me a shelter that I can use,” Schiltz stated.

The case is In re Nationwide Prescription Opiate Litigation, U.S. District Courtroom, Northern District of Ohio, No. 17-md-02804.

For the plaintiffs: W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Regulation Agency, Frank Gallucci of Plevin & Gallucci, Hunter Shkolnik and Salvatore Badala of Napoli Shkolnik, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy, Joseph Rice of Motley Rice and Paul Farrell of Farrell & Fuller.

For CVS: Eric Delinsky and Alexandra Miller of Zuckerman Spaeder.

For Walgreens: Kaspar Stoffelmayr, Brian Swanson, Katherine Swift, Alex Harris, Sharon Desh and Sten Jernudd of Bartlit Beck.

For Walmart: John Majoras, Benjamin Mizer, Tina Tabacchi and Tara Fumerton of Jones Day.

Nate Raymond

Nate Raymond studies on the federal judiciary and litigation. He could be reached at [email protected]