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Drug Distributors Cleared of Blame for Opioids Crisis in W. Va. County

  • July 06, 2022

Citizens, he said, “should not have to bear the principal responsibility of ensuring that an epidemic of this magnitude never occurs again.”

Lawyers for Cabell County and Huntington, and a national opioid plaintiffs’ executive committee, released a joint statement expressing their deep disappointment.

“We felt the evidence that emerged from witness statements, company documents and extensive data sets showed these defendants were responsible for creating and overseeing the infrastructure that flooded West Virginia with opioids,” they said. “Outcome aside, our appreciation goes out to the first-responders, public officials, treatment professionals, researchers and many others who gave their testimony to bring the truth to light. ”

The county and city are weighing whether to appeal.

Though the gamble to press the case was risky, some other governments succeeded at trial. The state of Washington also refused to sign onto the national settlement, went to trial against the distributors and in May settled for $46 million more than it would have received in the national settlement. In June, Oklahoma, too, settled with the distributors for more money than the national settlement would have offered.

The state of West Virginia had resolved its cases against the distributors years earlier for a total of $73 million, but local governments were free to continue their own lawsuits. The outcome of this case, Ms. Burch said, is “very much a cautionary tale about opting out of the surefire money a settlement offers.”

A new West Virginia trial against the same three distributors was to have opened on Tuesday in state court, brought by another cluster of West Virginia counties and cities, who are represented by the same lawyers who pursued the case decided Monday. In court on Tuesday, however, the start date was postponed.

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