This article was originally published in The Tribune.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia communities seeking a $1.25 billion settlement with the opioid industry are set to go on trial against the companies in late August, a federal judge said Thursday.
The Aug. 31 trial date will serve as a deadline for the proposed settlement, which would be a first of its kind deal even as opioid businesses consider settling thousands of lawsuits across the country.
The proposal with the country’s biggest opioid distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, was hammered out by 250 lawyers in Charleston last week, according to Paul Farrell, a West Virginia-based attorney who is one of the leaders in the lawsuits nationwide.
Farrell said West Virginia was seeking its own deal partly because the state would be cut out of a piece of a national $18 billion settlement that’s under consideration with the three distribution companies.
He added the companies would have to determine how much each would pay and officials in West Virginia still have to figure out how to divide the money among the state and local governments, hospitals and other entities.
The plan would eliminate most of the state’s opioid crisis litigation. Though state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey would be able to continue his claims against drug makers, potentially as part of a looming national deal.
The West Virginia plan would be the first statewide opioid settlement with companies from all parts of the drug industry. West Virginia has the country’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate in a crisis linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.