Judge Dan Polster watched the ’60 Minutes’ segment that ran on CBS last month interviewing Republican Attorney General and Governor-elect Mike DeWine along with two attorneys and had read the transcript. He will not sanction DeWine or the attorneys for the statements made.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, appointed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who is overseeing more than 1,500 lawsuits over the nation’s opioid epidemic said at a private status conference that he was displeased with statements made in a “60 Minutes” interview with Ohio Republican Attorney General and Governor-elect Mike DeWine and two other attorneys, saying the comments were “right up to the edge of where anyone should go.”
Polster watched the segment that ran on CBS last month and had read the transcript. He said he wasn’t going to address or issue any orders for sanctions, as attorneys for several drug companies requested, but he said the attorneys need to watch what they say publicly about the litigation. The judge specifically stated, “I don’t want to see anything more like I saw on 60 Minutes, and I don’t want to see anything on the Defense side either. So, everyone’s going to be behaving professionally. That goes for the lawyers or the clients…And no one is to be discussing, even in general terms, settlement discussions, other than to say everyone’s working hard, which is what all I’ve been saying.”
Several drug manufacturers targeted in lawsuits over the opioid epidemic had asked for DeWine and the attorneys to be sanctioned earlier this month after the comments made. The companies allege that the comments were made to purposely persuade potential jurors.
In the episode, correspondent Bill Whitaker discussed potential damages and data on pill distribution available from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DeWine and attorneys Mike Moore and Burton LeBlanc answered questions regarding the litigation over the role pharmaceutical companies in the deadly nationwide epidemic.
The motion was originally filed by attorneys for several drug manufacturers and distributors, including Purdue Pharma, Cardinal Health, Endo, and AmerisourceBergen, and court documents claim DeWine, Moore, and LeBlanc were part of a “concerted campaign” by attorneys representing state and local governments “to taint potential jury pools through misleading, inflammatory, and improper public statements.”
The defendants alleged the interviews provided “a flagrant violation of their ethical obligations as attorneys practicing before this Court and threatens defendants’ rights to a fair adjudication of the claims asserted against them.” Their motion asked Polster to impose a gag order and other sanctions.
The motion further stated, “if we try the Ohio case, if we win a verdict against these manufacturers and distributors there, it could bankrupt them” and that a jury may award $100 billion in a trial. It noted DeWine told Whitaker he had seen a set of data from the federal Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System (ARCOS). He said he wasn’t allowed to discuss the details of the data, but it was “shocking,” and distributors should have known something was amiss.
Lawsuits against opioid manufacturers accuse the pharmaceutical companies of downplaying the addictive nature of opioids and prescription painkillers. The firms are being accused of engaging in deceptive marketing tactics designed to minimize the long-term effects of opioid consumption. DeWine has participated in settlement talks in the federal litigation.