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Mitigating the Incidence and Severity of Injuries and Other Harms

In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation


In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation (U.S. Court of Appeals – Sixth Circuit, April 15, 2020): The Sixth Circuit held an opioid multidistrict litigation (MDL) trial court abused its discretion by allowing counties to amend their complaints 19 months after a judicial deadline. Petitioners are 12 retail pharmacy chains operating in Ohio counties. The counties are plaintiffs in two opioid-related cases pending in Ohio federal court. The counties’ complaints in those cases initially did not include claims against the retail pharmacy chains (“dispensers” that fill prescriptions), but instead asserted claims against distributors of prescription opioids (which ship pharmaceuticals wholesale). In an order (dated more than a year after the deadline for amendments to the counties’ complaints, and almost a year after discovery had closed) the trial court granted the counties’ motion to amend their complaints and ordered new discovery. While the trial court has broad discretion to “create efficiencies and avoid duplication” across cases in an MDL, the Sixth Circuit held it may not “distort or disregard the rules of law applicable to each of those cases.” By allowing counties to amend their complaints after disavowing those claims and completing discovery, the trial court failed to respect the pharmacies’ procedural rights. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – July 15, 2020.

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