CVN screenshot of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson delivering his opening statement. Click here to see on-demand video from the trial.
Seattle, WA - Opening statements took place Monday in a lawsuit filed by the Washington State Attorney General seeking $95 billion from drug distributors accused of contributing to the opioid epidemic, and the proceedings are being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson delivered his opening statement on Monday before King County Superior Court Judge Michal Scott, who is presiding over the lengthy trial (expected to last up to three months) without a jury. Ferguson’s lawsuit accused McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp. of creating a “public nuisance” by supposedly facilitating the flood of addictive opioids into Washington communities.
The trial comes after Ferguson rejected a $26 billion nationwide opioid-related settlement, saying the portion Washington would receive to fund treatment and other remediation programs was insufficient. Washington would have received $527.5 million under the proposed deal.
Instead he will seek $38.2 billion at trial - an amount the drug company defendants, who deny the allegations, blasted as a “wildly inflated recovery” which would swell to more than $95 billion. The defendants argue they distributed legally prescribed medications that have the full approval of the FDA, and that the opioid issue doesn't meet the legal definition of a public nuisance.
The full trial, from Monday’s opening statements through the closing arguments roughly three months from now, will be webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN. On-demand video will be available on a daily rolling basis throughout the proceedings.
The trial marks an important test of the “public nuisance” theory as a mechanism to hold drug companies liable for the opioid related claims, after a California state judge recently ruled in favor of drug company defendants following a lengthy trial this summer, which was also recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court also recently overturned a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson following a 2019 trial (the first in the country) that CVN similarly recorded gavel-to-gavel.
Even without a jury, Judge Scott’s courtroom on Monday morning was still at capacity as each of the defendants had large legal teams present.
Cardinal is represented by Stoel Rives LLP and Williams & Connolly LLP.
McKesson is represented by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and by Covington & Burling LLP.
AmerisourceBergen is represented by Lane Powell and by Reed Smith LLP.
The case is captioned State of Washington v. McKesson Corporation et al, case number 19-2-06975-9 SEA, in the Superior Court for the State of Washington in King County.
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