A federal judge’s push for a quick resolution of hundreds of lawsuits filed against drugmakers over their alleged role in the opioid crisis hit a roadblock, with both sides opting to seek more information to help value a global settlement, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland said the cases will now move forward on a “limited litigation track,” setting up the possibility for test-case trials in the coming year. The move comes after Polster aggressively pushed for a somewhat unconventional approach to resolving the suits: settlement discussions before the facts of the case had been fully aired in court. Polster said earlier that “we don’t need briefs and we don’t need trials.” He even invited parties to his court who didn’t have cases in front of him, including attorneys general pursuing their own deceptive-marketing suits against the drugmakers in state courts.
Settlement talks will continue, but the parties will move forward with document discovery, further briefing and the scheduling of bellwether trials. More than 450 cities, states and counties have filed suits against drugmakers and distributors, claiming their aggressive marketing and distribution of opioid painkillers has caused widespread addiction and overdose deaths. Defendants, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Endo International, have denied the allegations and said they are dedicated to being part of the resolution of the drug crisis. Distributors targeted by the suits, including AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corp., have similarly disputed the legal claims but said they are committed to solutions to the crisis. So far, 16 states, including Ohio, South Carolina and Kentucky, have individually sued drugmakers or distributors. A coalition of states representing most of the rest of the nation are jointly pursuing their own investigation but haven’t sued.