By Laura Karas
A recent Sixth Circuit decision dashed hopes of a faster resolution to the federal opioid multidistrict litigation (MDL).
The MDL (In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, Docket No. 1:17-md-02804) consolidated many thousands of suits against opioid makers and distributors.
Thus far, action in the MDL has presaged the enormity of corporate responsibility for the opioid crisis. Roughly one year ago, the first bellwether trial in the MDL, involving two Ohio counties, was averted due to a last-minute settlement by Teva Pharmaceuticals and the “Big Three” drug distributors (AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson). A $465 million verdict last year against Johnson & Johnson “abated” one year’s worth of damage to the state of Oklahoma from the opioid crisis, which was held to be a public nuisance under Oklahoma law. And another bellwether trial involving pharmacy chains including Walgreens and CVS is scheduled to take place next year, despite the pharmacy chains’ strong pushback.
As part of the MDL, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio had certified a new kind of class, distinct from a litigation or settlement class — a “negotiation class” of cities and counties throughout the United States — under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, the Federal Rule that governs class actions.
But on September 24, a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed this decision.