A Charleston courtroom morphed into a chemistry class Tuesday as a witness in a landmark opioid crisis trial broke down opioids to their molecules and explained how opioid use disorder takes hold of drug users.
The landmark trial in West Virginia against drug distributors known as the “Big Three” — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — comes after an 11th-hour settlement averted an Ohio trial in October 2019 and coronavirus-related delays stalled opioid cases across the country
“We intend to prove the simple truth that the distributor defendants sold a mountain of opioid pills into our community, fueling a modern opioid epidemic,” said Paul Farrell, an attorney for Cabell County, in a 90-minute opening statement in federal court in the state capital.
Paul Farrell Jr., a lawyer for Cabell County, laid out the pillars of the county’s and city’s case. He said his team will prove that the three companies sold a mountain of pills that fueled the opioid epidemic, pressing on despite “black flags” that should have caused them to take notice and reevaluate their approach to sales.
“We intend to prove the simple truth that the distributor defendants sold a mountain of opioid pills into our community, fueling the opioid epidemic,” Paul Farrell, a lawyer for Cabell County, said in his opening statement in Charleston, West Virginia federal court.
The cases, initially filed by Huntington native Paul T. Farrell Jr., seek damages and reimbursement for costs associated with past and future efforts to eliminate the hazard. The wholesalers had a duty to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates originating from Cabell County and failed to do so, it said.
“After facing this crisis head on for far too long, our day in court is finally here,” said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who is expected to testify in the case brought against the distributors by the City of Huntington and the Cabell County Commission.
The trial will aim to “hold these companies accountable, and help restore these communities,” co-lead plaintiffs’ lawyers Paul Farrell and Anne McGinness Kearse said.
Those suits follow a pioneering antitrust claim by HD Media, which sued Google and Facebook in January. HD Media publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Huntington Herald-Dispatch and seven Southern West Virginia weeklies.
Opioid distributors’ last-ditch effort to have a judge throw out Cabell County and Huntington’s claims against them for lack of standing was shot down Wednesday, about a month ahead of trial.