COVID-19 concerns have pushed back the start of the highly anticipated New York opioid trial pitting New York Attorney General Letitia James against major opioid manufacturers and distributors.
New York Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo “postponed indefinitely” the trial, which was slated to begin March 20, according to Law360. The court set an April 14 date to consider a rescheduling date. A spokesperson for James’ office said the coronavirus was “the sole reason” for delaying the trial.
The trial involves claims by New York and two Long Island counties that several drug companies created and fueled an opioid epidemic that has caused overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities. Among the drug companies named in the case are Johnson & Johnson units, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan Inc., McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., and Rochester Drug Cooperative Inc.
Hundreds of states and local governments are suing opioid manufacturers for their role in the opioid crisis. The only one to go to trial, which involved two counties in Oklahoma, resulted in a $465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, and Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $270 million and $85 million, respectively, to settle claims before the trial date.
COVID-19 has caused a wave of concern across the country and the world, affecting 114 countries and killing more than 4,000 people worldwide. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially called COVID-19 “the first pandemic caused by coronavirus.”
Experts recommend “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus. Several countries have imposed drastic measures including travel restrictions and quarantines. In the U.S., several large gatherings including medical conferences, concerts and sporting events have been postponed or canceled.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by the opioid crisis. Attorneys are also investigating cases of serious injuries and illness – including addiction and overdose – related to opioid use and abuse, as well as cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in babies born to mothers addicted to opioids. For more information, contact Melissa Prickett or Liz Eiland.