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Cleveland Judge Will Oversee Opioid Lawsuits Filed in 7 States

Ohio's opioid overdose death rate has increased in the past few years. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Steve Heap)
Ohio's opioid overdose death rate has increased in the past few years. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Steve Heap)

Dozens of lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states across the country against opioid manufacturers and distributors will be consolidated in an Ohio court after a ruling issued by a group of federal judges Tuesday.

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled 64 lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies in 9 federal district courts will have their pretrial motions overseen by Judge Dan Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland.

The consolidation is part of the federal multidistrict litigation process, which allows both plaintiffs and defendants to request to have complex civil cases that address common legal questions heard by one court.

The 64 cases allege that a group of opioid distributors and manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, and McKesson Corporation, among others, “overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks” of their opioid medications, “aggressively marketed” them to doctors, and failed to monitor and investigate suspicious orders.

The consolidation includes two cases from Northeast Ohio filed by the cities of Lorain and Parma, as well as 14 cases filed in the Southern District of Ohio, including lawsuits from Cincinnati, Dayton and a number of counties.

Cases filed in Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Washington and West Virginia are also included in the multidistrict litigation transfer order.

In the written decision signed by Chair Sarah Vance from the Eastern District of Louisianna, the Panel says northern Ohio not only has a strong connection to the case because of the quick rise of opioid overdose deaths its experienced over the past several years, but is a geographically central location, making travel easier and lessening the cost of the suits for plaintiffs, defendants and eventual witnesses. The ruling also points out that Cardinal Health, one of the largest manufacturers included in the suits, is based in Ohio.

The decision mentions 115 other cases have been filed outside of federal court that deal with similar claims.

Those cases, including the lawsuits filed by Cuyahoga County and Attorney General Mike DeWine in county Common Pleas Courts, could also be moved to the Northern District of Ohio.