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New York Opioid Trial Postponed Due To Coronavirus

COVID-19 has hit New York pretty hard. There’s been lots of talk and action on that talk with changes to the court system while the coronavirus remains a threat. Still, it came as a surprise when the highly anticipated opioid trial involving defendants McKesson Corp, Johnson & Johnson, CVS Health Corp and others was postponed. Scheduled to begin jury trial on March 20th, a new trial date has not yet been set. There is, however, a hearing set for April 14th to determine how the court should proceed with the case in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The setback may or may not be welcome news. Here’s an overview of what it all could mean.

Why is the New York Opioid Trial So Significant?

The State of New York and the suburban continues of Suffolk and Nassau brought the case against many drug makers, distributors, and pharmacy chains, including those mentioned above and others. It was the first case of its kind given the number of defendants. There have been previous highly anticipated opioid cases, but they involved only a few defendants, namely:

  • a $260 million settlement between Ohio counties and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Its and three other drug distributors;
  • a proposed $48 billion settlement offered by McKesson, Cardinal Health Inc, AmericsourceBergen Corp, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Johnson & Johnson to settle all cases against them;
  • a $465 million verdict in Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson;
  • a $1.6 billion global settlement proposed by Mallinckrodt Plc to settle claims against it; and 
  • a $10 billion settlement proposed by Purdue Pharma LP to settle claims against it.

This case, if New York were to win, could produce transformative results, meaning a verdict in favor of the State of New York could have an unprecedented influence whereby we would see thousands of cases settled. Those funds would be used to directly address the opioid crisis and its victims.

But that won’t happen as soon as it could have happened. Now, victims and state and local agencies will have to wait to get the funds they desperately need to adequately address the opioid crisis. 

What Does the Delay Due to the Coronavirus Mean?

The delay due to the coronavirus presents a dichotomy.  On the one hand, the delay is necessary because drastic steps must be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s important to opioid addicts because their immune systems are more vulnerable, and so they are at a higher risk of the coronavirus and its effects on the body. The trial, however, if in favor of the State, could have produced significant funds that, in turn, could be put back into the system to benefit opioid addicts – and getting them help sooner can better protect them against contracting the coronavirus.

No matter what now, the State of New York as well as Suffolk and Naussau Counties will have to wait, and so will the victims of the opioid crisis. But during this time, negotiations may still take place. That means there could be a settlement after all. In the end, the delay – unfortunate yet understood – can still work to the benefit of opioid victims.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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