Charleston Gazette-Mail owner Doug Reynolds discusses the paper’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook and Google.
Opioid distributors accused of helping to create and fuel the opioid crisis in the Huntington area asked a federal judge again Tuesday to dismiss the case against them ahead of a trial set for May.
The owner of a West Virginia newspaper has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, and Facebook, claiming they are manipulating the digital advertising market and making it harder for newspapers to survive.
“There is no financial stake large enough,” to make up for what’s happened to the newspaper industry in the past two decades, said Farrell, the lead lawyer in HD Media’s suit against the tech giants. Nationwide, more than 2,000 local newspapers have shuttered since 2004; half of all newsroom jobs have been eliminated. That tragic trend has only accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, just when the information they provide is most needed.
“The freedom of the press is not at stake; the press itself is at stake,” lawyers Paul T. Farrell Jr., Paul J. Geller and Clayton J. Fitzsimmons wrote for HD Media.
Courts have hesitated to move to virtual settings, in large part because the scale of the opioid litigation — thought to be the most complex in U.S. history — makes it difficult to hold a trial by video conference. The city of Huntington and Cabell County in West Virginia, concerned that delays would continue as long as the virus was rampant, pushed to move the trial to a video option but didn’t succeed.
A federal judge in West Virginia has indefinitely postponed a trial date in a lawsuit filed by the city of Huntington and Cabell County over the opioid crisis.
“There is no vaccine to a lifetime of opioid addiction,” said Farrell, who helped initiate the litigation from his home base in Huntington, W.Va., one of the epicenters of the crisis. “We still have an underlying opioid epidemic that has been exacerbated by the covid outbreak.”
The lead lawyer, Paul T. Farrell, Jr. has not agreed to the offer. “West Virginia fully supports the national settlement on behalf of every other state,” said Mr. Farrell, who represents numerous West Virginia small governments. “It’s just not good enough for us.”
Paul Farrell Jr. is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. He says he feels like they could have held the trial this month safely.
“We feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football,” Farrell said. “Obviously we respect the COVID epidemic, but we should fear the opioid epidemic. There are still people suffering and dying every day in West Virginia.”