FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - All nine lawsuits filed by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear against opioid manufacturers and distributors will be heard in Kentucky courts.
Beshear has filed lawsuits against AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Insys, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Mallinckrodt, McKesson Corporation, Teva and Walgreens on state law allegations that they directly contributed to the state’s drug epidemic.
Several of the lawsuits ended up in Cleveland, Ohio, as the companies sought to have them heard as part of multidistrict litigation in the federal court system. However, a federal judge sent the final case, in which Walgreen was the defendant, back to Kentucky this week and it will be heard in Boone Circuit Court, where it was originally filed.
Walgreens maintained the case dealt with alleged violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act and so it belonged in federal court system, but U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster said his court has no jurisdiction over state cases filed by state attorneys general involving state laws, and remanded the case back to Kentucky.
“The only way to hold these out-of-state pharmaceutical companies accountable for the harm they have caused our families and communities is to haul them into our courts and make them pay for creating the crisis of our time – our opioid epidemic,” Beshear said in reaction to the federal judge’s ruling. “While we can never bring back a loved one who lost their life to addiction, making these companies face a Kentucky jury can give our families a piece of justice and give our state the money it needs to rebuild our communities.”
Beshear has filed lawsuits in Boone, Fayette, Franklin (two cases), Floyd, Hardin, Jefferson, Madison and McCracken. Kentucky now leads the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.
His office has won fights to keep his opioid lawsuits from being dismissed by several of the pharmaceutical companies. Circuit judges in Franklin, Madison and McCracken have denied motions to dismiss by Endo Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen and Mallinckrodt, respectively.
McKesson Corporation’s motion to dismiss Beshear’s lawsuit against it is pending a ruling in Franklin Circuit Court. The next hearing on a motion to dismiss is in Floyd Circuit Court from opioid distributor AmerisourceBergen on Feb. 12.
In all the cases, his office is being represented by outside counsel, Beshear said, headed by the Morgan and Morgan law firm. They are on a contingency fee basis, where the state has no upfront expenses, and the firm would be paid by collecting a percentage of any monetary verdict or settlement. They would get nothing if the case is lost.