Federal trial against opioid distributors begins in West Virginia

Nearly four years since this case was filed, the plaintiffs and defendant began the bench trial Monday.
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 12:09 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A federal trial against three major drug distributors, that has been years in the making, began Monday morning in Charleston, West Virginia.

The City of Huntington and Cabell County filed the lawsuit against drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp.

Opening arguments started at about 9:30 a.m. with Paul Farrell Jr. representing the plaintiffs laying out their case. Farrell’s opening remarks lasted about an hour and a half followed by an attorney for the City of Huntington.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams says this trial has been in the works for a long time. He says the suit was filed about four years ago.

Mayor Williams and several other city and county leaders like Police Chief Ray Cornwell, Fire Chief Jan Rader and Cabell County Sheriff Chuck Zerkle are expected to testify throughout the proceedings.

A judge last month rejected the companies’ attempt to dismiss the case. Hundreds of similar lawsuits have been filed across the country.

“It is fitting that the trial will proceed in West Virginia, which has been ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” plaintiff’s attorneys Paul Farrell and Anne McGinness Kearse said in a statement.

In a recent article one of the defendants, cardinal health says they aren’t responsible for the ongoing opioid crisis.

The trial is expected to last several weeks and this is a bench trial, meaning there will be no jury. Judge Faber will decide the fate of this case.

The City of Huntington and Cabell County are seeking more than a billion dollars in damages.

West Virginia has the nation’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate. In separate, similar lawsuits, the state reached a $37 million settlement with McKesson in 2019, $20 million with Cardinal Health and $16 million with AmerisourceBergen in 2017.

This is a developing story.

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