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New York Opioid Case Stalled Due to Coronavirus Concerns

— March 24, 2020

New York’s opioid trial pushed back. Defendants will have more time to negotiate.

The coronavirus is preventing some opioid cases from advancing in court, including the next trial scheduled in New York pertaining to the drug industry’s involvement in the statewide crisis.  This phase has been postponed because of pandemic, so, according to documents, the “parties have more time to attempt to reach agreement on a settlement.”  The defendants in the trial include McKesson Corp., Johnson & Johnson, CVS Health Corp., and others.  The case was submitted by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, and Suffolk and Nassau counties in Long Island.

The decision was made in order to limit potential exposure that could result from hundreds of attorneys and jury candidates gathering in one place.  While the virus is, for the most part, only causing mild symptoms, those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing life-threatening illness.  If it had moved ahead, New York’s case would have been the second U.S. trial of its kind, following Oklahoma’s last year.

The U.S.’s largest drug distributors as well as two manufacturers have long been trying to get plaintiffs to agree to a settlement, but roughly twenty state attorneys general have rejected their offers.  Now the parties will have more time to discuss the terms, and the defendants will get their wish to delay proceedings.  Judge Jerry Garguilo, of the Democratic party, set a new meeting date for April 14 to determine the next steps.

New York Opioid Case Stalled Due to Coronavirus Concerns
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

James stated, “The rescheduling should happen as soon as it can,” adding, “While our first duty must be to ensure the safety of every individual in attendance at trial, as the court stated today, this trial will not be delayed a single minute longer than necessary.”

President Donald Trump recently changed his public stance on the severity of the coronavirus.  While previously indicating the media had inflated the risks and doing little to protect himself against exposure, he is now commending the coverage, admitting the virus is far more widespread than he had anticipated.

Of the Trump administration’s response to the virus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, said, “They reached the conclusion this week that they had to communicate a sense of seriousness about what was going on and had to reassure the country that they were taking it very seriously.  Having major companies like Wal-Mart, CVS, etc. involved means suddenly you begin to see how you can move to scale for a country for our size.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made recommendations for limiting the spread of the virus.  The protocol includes measures to self-quarantine if sick and for companies to be adamant about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.  Many states have mandated school and daycare closings in an effort to slow the effects of coronavirus, and some companies have taken it upon themselves to roll out additional measures to protect the public’s safety.  Many movie theaters are only offering limited seating and fast food restaurants have transitioned to drive thru only.  Given the circumstances, the postponement, the court stated, was warranted.


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