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Talks In Opioid Lawsuits Called 'Very Fruitful'

Outside the federal courthouse in Cleveland, Brenda Ryan held up a photo of her daughter, Sheena Moore, who died of an overdose. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Attorneys handling hundreds of lawsuits over the opioid crisis say they’re making progress in discussions between local governments and drug companies.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster held a brief public hearing today to discuss the suits brought by cities, counties, Native American tribes and others against drug makers and distributors.

Francis McGovern, one of three special masters coordinating the legal work, told Polster today that the parties have had “very fruitful, very open, very cooperative discussions.”

Polster has said he wants a settlement. He has also set a trial date next year for suits brought by Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Summit County, which are in his jurisdiction in the Northern District of Ohio. 

In court today, Polster said he saw litigation preparation as an “aid” to settlement talks. He said he still wants the parties to take action this year to ease the harm of the opioid crisis. 

Dozens of advocates for families protested outside the courthouse, some holding signs blaming pharmaceutical companies for the crisis. Many people filled overflow seating for the hearing.

Cindy Koumoutzis is the state director for Ohio Change Addiction Now, an advocacy group for families affected by addiction. She said that overdoses affect more than just those who use drugs.

“Let’s not forget the children of those impacted and the families who have lost everything,” Koumoutzis said, “because they trusted someone in a white lab jacket to write out a prescription.”

The judge this week ordered the Drug Enforcement Administration to turn over detailed data on drug sales across the country. A protective order bars disclosure of the data to the public.  

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.