A federal appeals court denied attempts to halt a coming trial seeking to blame the pharmaceutical industry for causing the opioid crisis and to remove the judge overseeing the case, the Wall Street Journal reports. Two rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit clear the way for a trial scheduled to begin in less than two weeks in Cleveland. The cases of two Ohio counties hit hard by opioid addiction will go to trial first among more than 2,000 cases brought by local governments, Native American tribes and others consolidated before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked the Sixth Circuit to stop the trial, arguing that only the state, not counties, has legal authority to bring the claims. A dozen other states filed a motion in support of Ohio.
The request came amid tensions between state attorneys general and local governments over who should control opioid lawsuits and where financial recoveries should go. The appeals court said Ohio knew for months that the counties’ claims were set for trial and could have made attempts in the lower court to address their concerns rather than asking the appellate court to decide the issue “by extraordinary means.” The Sixth Circuit also said a request brought by drug distributors and pharmacies to get Polster to step down came too late. The companies argued that Polster is biased, citing his close involvement in settlement talks and public comments that his objective is to help solve the opioid crisis. The court said that while the judge’s public comments might call his impartiality into question, Polster “equally placed blame on all parties, readily acknowledged that settlement efforts might not work, and acknowledged that both sides had compelling arguments.”