Polster said he will allow two Ohio counties to continue with their trial ahead of the state’s.
Ohio’s Attorney General, Dave Yost, has opted to not allow two in state counties to begin their trial amid the opioid crisis. Yet, two Ohio counties have asked a court to deny his request to delay their share of the litigation. In their filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Cuyahoga and Summit counties argued “the state doesn’t have a say in the matter because it’s not part of the federal case set for trial October 21 in Cleveland.” Yost had argued that the state’s claims, made in state rather than federal court, should move ahead of those brought by the two counties.
“It’s not right,” Yost said, “that relief could come to those counties ahead of the rest of the state, and especially areas where opioids have been an even bigger problem.” Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states in the nation.
The counties responded that the state “sat on the sidelines while the district court addressed and denied the Defendants’ motions to dismiss, which raised many of the same issues Ohio seeks to raise here.”
Judge Dan Polster indicated in an order “he did not intend to honor Ohio’s request to stop the trial,” agreeing that “the counties’ case doesn’t get in the way of the state’s.” Polster wrote, “Cuyahoga County and Summit County are seeking, and only entitled to, damages they suffered themselves.” Polster, nominated to his post by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, also stated previously of Ohio, “There are few if any Ohioans who don’t have a family member, a friend, a parent of a friend, or a child of a friend who has not been impacted.”
Some of the defendants in the litigation submitted a motion requesting that Polster excuse himself because of a perceived bias. The defendants claimed Polster “participated in at least seven media interviews, including one in which he let a reporter trail him for a day, and made other public comments about the case.” They maintained he “expressed a strong personal conviction that his role is to strong-arm the parties into a settlement that will abate an ongoing opioid crisis, not just resolve the legal issues presented by the cases.”
Their motion stated further, the judge “prejudged the responsibility of all defendants for ‘the opioid crisis’” and “foresaw the outcome of the process as getting ‘some money to the government agencies for treatment.”
Polster refused, responding in a written statement, “The undersigned is confident that the imminent trial of the first bellwether case, along with the parties’ ongoing settlement negotiations – addressing not only the bellwether trial, but also global resolution – will continue to bear fruit. And the undersigned is confident that no reasonable person can legitimately question my impartiality.”
Since August, Cuyahoga and Summit counties have successfully reached settlements with four opioid manufacturers, including Mallinckrodt, Endo, Allergan, and Johnson & Johnson. Purdue’s trial is scheduled to start later in October. The remaining defendants in that trial, if a settlement is not reached prior, are Teva’s Actavis subsidiary AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Henry Schein, and McKesson, and Walgreen’s.