The day before the bellwether trial of Cuyahoga and Summit Counties versus four major pharmaceutical companies began, the drug manufacturers settled. The issue for the counties was the significant cost of the opioid epidemic, believed to have been fueled by the drug companies. Earlier this summer Attorney General Dave Yost tried to force the court to consolidate the counties’ cases under his jurisdiction, and he voiced concern with the settlement.
In his statement to the 6th District Court of Appeals, pushing for consolidation, Yost wrote:
The Northern District of Ohio is the home for an MDL of nearly 2,000 lawsuits where political subdivision plaintiffs have sued manufacturers, distributors, and others responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic. The court has scheduled a consolidated seven-week bellwether trial for two of those subdivisions (Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties) seeking $8 billion, and to begin on October 21, 2019. If the consolidated trial proceeds on the theories pleaded in the complaints, it will include claims that belong to the State of Ohio. This petition presents the following question:
Should a writ of mandamus issue to stop or delay the trial in order to protect Ohio’s sovereign right to litigate on behalf of its citizens as parens patriae?”
According to Lexico.com, “parens patriae” is “the principle that political authority carries with it the responsibility for protection of citizens.”
On Thursday, October 10th the court rejected Yost’s request. The decision from the three judges stated, “The State of Ohio [‘Ohio’] petitions for a writ of mandamus compelling the district court to dismiss or postpone a consolidated bellwether trial scheduled to begin on October 21, 2019, in this multidistrict litigation [MDL] case brought against manufacturers, distributors, and other entities alleged to be responsible for the nation’s opiate epidemic.”
“A writ or order of mandamus is an extraordinary court order because it is made without the benefit of full judicial process, or before a case has concluded,” states the Free Legal Dictionary.
The judges determined that Yost’s request for a “writ of mandamus” did not rise to the level of “drastic, extraordinary or exceptional circumstances,” and denied it.
Fox News spoke with Yost about the settlement, “WATCH: @BillHemmer talks to @Yost4Ohio about a $260 million settlement in a landmark case involving two Ohio counties and four drugmakers #nine2noon.”
— America's Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) October 22, 2019
Reuters noted the deal was made to avoid the first scheduled federal trial and that, “Four large drug companies could resume talks on Tuesday to try to reach a $48 billion settlement of all opioid litigation against them.”
Yost expressed concern that the money being doled out to two Ohio counties could set a precedent upon which the drug companies would try to base a nationwide deal. “The proposed ‘framework’ for a global settlement is more like a pile of lumber, dumped on the construction site. Too few details, not enough protections, and — if Monday’s settlement was any benchmark — not enough dollars,” he tweeted.
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