“Described as the most complex litigation ever, the trial will begin to sort out the welter of accusations over the crisis,” my colleague Lenny Bernstein reports from Cleveland. “While six drug companies are defendants in the case, jurors also may hear blame cast widely on doctors, government agencies and perhaps even drug users themselves. The jury’s response will help decide who should bear the cost of one of this century’s worst public health crises.”
If lawyers for Cuyahoga and Summit counties can keep the focus broad — on how the distributors helped create a large market supporting the illicit use of opioid prescription painkillers — they could gain the upper hand.
But the drug distributors want to do the opposite and get really, really specific. If the distributors can drill down into questions such as which doctors overprescribed medications for which patients, they could find their defense easier.
“The nightmare scenario for the counties is this devolves into a debate about whether particular prescriptions were warranted or not,” David Noll, a Rutgers University School of Law professor and expert in legal institutions and procedures, told me.
“If that happens, the plaintiffs automatically lose, because the drug companies point the finger at the doctors,” he said. “They are trying to avoid having ten thousand mini-trials on particular prescriptions.”
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