Picture: Gavel

Judge denies summary judgment motion, nuisance case against Big 3 moves toward May trial

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

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge has denied a motion for summary judgment from three larger drug distributors putting a case filed by the City of Huntington and Cabell County against the three on a path toward a May trial.

U.S. District Judge David Faber denied the attempt to by AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson to stop the public nuisance trial before it got started in Wednesday’s ruling.

Faber is now scheduled to begin the bench trial May 3 in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

The lawsuit, filed by the City of Huntington and Cabell County Commission in 2017, blames the “Big Three” for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis by distributing nearly 100 million opioid pills in Cabell County over a 10-year period, declaring the actions by the companies have been a public nuisance.

Plaintiff’s attorney Paul Farrell said Wednesday’s ruling by Faber reaffirms “the legitimacy of community claims brought against the drug distributors.”

Farrell said West Virginians deserve their day in court against the Big Three.

“During the May trial for the City of Huntington and Cabell County, we will demonstrate how the defendants, alongside other companies in the supply chain, created this ongoing crisis. Drug distributors ignored their obligations under the Controlled Substance Act and actively pumped pills into American communities like Cabell County and Huntington,” Farrell said. “The repeated attempts by the Big Three distributors to delay their courtroom reckoning will not deter these communities from pursuing the resources they need now to combat the opioid crisis that has only worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The summary judgement motion was argued in a Feb. 9 hearing. Also during that hearing plaintiffs attorney Anthony Majestro briefly laid out their case.

“The conduct of the defendants prior to 2016 caused a nuisance that continues to harm the health of Cabell County. This nuisance existed and it continues to not be abated,” Majestro said. “No statute of limitations begins to run because the nuisance is unabated.”

Majestro said from 2016-2018 there were 324 opioid deaths in Huntington-Cabell County.

Defendant’s attorney Ashley Hardin countered saying AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson are not to blame.

“We don’t drop these pills into the town square. We don’t place addicts into the community,” Hardin said.