JUDGE IN OPIOID MDL LITIGATION DENIES DISTRIBUTOR DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CERTIFY FOR INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL THE COURT'S PREVIOUS RULING THAT RICO CLAIMS CAN PROCEED

            On January 18, 2019, Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio denied Distributor Defendants’ motion to certify the Court’s previous ruling denying their motion to dismiss the RICO claims for interlocutory appeal. The key issue for the Court was whether “such an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The Distributor Defendants had argued that the possibility of liability for treble damages under RICO would hinder settlement. The Court disagreed, finding it “disingenuous” for the Distributor Defendants to now argue that going forward with trial would hamper settlement when they had previously “insisted that a trial track would be valuable for resolving legal issues and for settlement.” Therefore the Court denied the motion. 

            Judge Polster is presiding over multi-district litigation that consolidated over 1200 cases brought against opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and other defendants. The cases allege, inter alia, that the manufacturers of opioids grossly misrepresented the long-term risks of using opioids and that distributors failed to properly monitor suspicious orders of these prescription drugs. The Court’s rulings on the motion to dismiss and the motion to certify for interlocutory appeal came in the bellwether cases brought by the cities of Akron and Cleveland and two Ohio counties. 

            Many observers believe that the Opioid MDL Litigation could have a serious impact on how the country addresses the opioid crisis because Judge Polster has encouraged the parties to reach a global resolution. As Judge Polster stated in his December 18, 2018 order on the motion to dismiss: 

It is accurate to describe the opioid epidemic as a man-made plague, twenty years in the making. The pain, death, 
and heartache it has wrought cannot be overstated.  As this Court has previously stated, it is hard to find anyone
in Ohio who does not have a family member, a friend, or a child of a friend who has not been affected. 

            The case is In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL 2804, pending in the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Ohio.