Multiple Lawsuits Against Pharmaceutical Companies Converge in One County
Currently, there are hundreds of cases around the country accusing companies that manufactured prescription Opioids of false advertisement and downplaying the risk of addiction, subsequently causing the country’s Opioid Crisis. In 2017, Delaware County became the first county in Pennsylvania to file a claim against, and sue, Opioid-makers. As such, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas has become the primary courthouse in the state for Opioid lawsuits. Over the past 18 months, many pharmaceutical-related cases have been consolidated there and are currently awaiting trial.
Delaware County attorneys say coordinating the cases in one place is intended to be cost- and time-effective, and to avoid conflicting results in different courts. However, this attempt to consolidate Opioid lawsuits has resulted in sprawling litigation that has plaintiff lawyers competing against one another for representation.
In fact, merging these cases has proven to be the opposite of Judge Charles B. Burr’s intended purpose. More than 40 suits across the state, including complaints filed by Philadelphia city government and District Attorney Larry Krasner, have been forced into the Delaware County courthouse, where litigants didn’t even have a digital system to file documents until mid-2018.
Nearly a year-and-a-half after Delaware County filed, two test cases have just now progressed to the point that defendants have filed preliminary objections – a step that is usually taken within the first month of a lawsuit’s initiation. Filing motions and briefs on paper hasn’t been the only issue slowing down proceedings. The suits are also currently on their third Delaware County judge and counties are still vying for spots on the leadership team overseeing the cases. Additionally, many of the drug companies that are being charged have yet to turn over any internal documents.
The Disappearance of Delaware County’s Lawsuit
The original case that caused the lawsuits to be consolidated is now no longer in Delaware Country. It has been moved to federal court in Philadelphia, after one of the corporate defendants argued it should be moved to the federal level. Moreover, many attorneys are using the original case’s absence as evidence to claim that Delaware County doesn’t have proper jurisdiction.
There are now seven appeals to the state Superior Court petitioning the Delaware County coordination in hopes that the court will be held in Philadelphia instead. Delaware County is currently fighting to get its case back to their courthouse (where it was filed). The County has asked the federal judge to remand the lawsuit, hoping to defeat the assertion that it is essentially a class action by the Walgreens defendant.
Remarkably so, that a Philadelphia firm involved in the litigation, Anapol Weiss, attests keeping the cases in Delaware County is now a “legal impossibility” that is “wholly unjustified and, in a sense, indefensible at this point.”
Many Delaware County attorneys acknowledge the fact that their suits could be upgraded to federal court in Philadelphia within the coming months.