Federal appeals court rules for pharmacies on pre-trial questions in massive opioid litigation


The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Wednesday that the trial judge overseeing a massive set of cases involving the opioid crisis had violated the procedural rights of pharmacies who were defendants in the matter. In the case, Judge Dan Polster in the Northern District of Ohio had allowed Cuyahoga and Summit Counties in that state to add legal claims to their complaints against the pharmacies when in a normal case it would have been far too late to do so. This, the Sixth Circuit found, was a “clear abuse of discretion,” even if it was a well-intended attempt to efficiently develop the relevant claims in this first trial of thousands of trials pending over the liability of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

Polster is overseeing a huge multi-district litigation, or MDL, in which outcome of the initial trial on the Ohio counties’ claims will guide the resolution of more than 2,700 other opioid lawsuits from around the country.