The Opioids Deal

Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse building in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Dustin Franz for The Washington Post)

CLEVELAND — Inside the plaintiffs’ war room, bleary-eyed, caffeinated lawyers worked on what would be one of the most important cases of their careers — the first bellwether trial in the national opioid litigation against the country’s biggest drug companies. Their rented office space across from the federal courthouse was crammed with copy machines, boxes of documents, whiteboards and — to capture the gravity of the work — some World War II-era propaganda posters.

“Careless Talk Costs Lives,” read one.

Someone had stenciled a message on the wall: “If In Doubt Don’t Ship It Out.”

But their first battle, with two Ohio counties as plaintiffs, was called off at the last moment. At 1 a.m. on Oct. 21, hours before opening arguments were to start, four of the drug companies settled with Summit and Cuyahoga counties — with no admission of wrongdoing.