Picture: OxyContin bottle

After pandemic-related delays, trial date is set this spring in massive opioid case

This story of Paul Farrell, Jr.’s federal case against opioid companies was originally published in WV MetroNews.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A trial date is tentatively set for May 3 for the lawsuit from the City of Huntington and the Cabell County Commission accusing AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, three large drug manufacturers, of illegally fueling the opioid epidemic.

The trial, which will be a bench trial, has been postponed several times because of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge David Faber set the new start for late spring with a projected end date on Aug. 9, 2021 depending on a number of factors.

In a statement, the lead attorneys for plaintiffs in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation said the delay is unfortunate.

“If not for the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the public would already know the truth about how the opioid distributors created and fueled the opioid epidemic,” stated co-leads Paul T. Farrell Jr. of Farrell Law; Paul J. Hanly Jr. of Simmons Hanly Conroy; and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC.

“As Judge Faber indicated, it’s beyond time to move forward with a trial to work toward obtaining the resources that the people of the City of Huntington and Cabell County, West Virginia, and communities nationwide, desperately need as both of these crises rage on.”

During a Wednesday hearing, an attorney for Cardinal Health unsuccessfully argued against setting a specific date because of existing delays in distributions of coronavirus vaccinations nationwide.

“I’m inclined to err on the side of getting this thing moving,” said Judge Faber.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2017 alleging the “Big Three” drug distributors pumped nearly 100 million opioid pills into Cabell County during a ten-year period.

The case was originally part of a group of similar cases being considered in federal court in Cleveland but was released back to U.S. District Court in West Virginia’s Southern District in late 2019.

The next pretrial hearing was scheduled for 11 a.m. Feb. 3 via videoconference.