HUNTINGTON – The drug distributors alleged to have caused the opioid epidemic in West Virginia are asking for the Huntington lawsuit against them to be removed to federal court.
AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corporation claim Dr. Gregory Donald Chaney was only added to the suit as a way to keep the case in state court, according to the Feb. 23 notice of removal.
“The claims as pled against Dr. Chaney do not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the claims pled against Removing Defendants, and the respective claims against Dr. Chaney and Removing Defendants do not involve common questions of law or fact,” the notice states. “Plaintiff’s allegations against Removing Defendants relate to their allegedly excessive distributions of certain prescription medications to pharmacies in the City of Huntington. The allegations against Dr. Chaney, by contrast, focus on the number of allegedly improper prescriptions he wrote for individual patients.”
Huntington does not allege any connection whatsoever between the respective alleged wrongful conduct of Chaney and that of the drug distributors.
“The claims against Dr. Chaney—writing prescriptions that were allegedly not for a legitimate medical purpose—arise out of the physician-patient relationship with some unknown number of unidentified patients,” the notice states. “The claims against Removing Defendants, on the other hand—distributing prescription medications to Huntington pharmacies—have no necessary connection to Dr. Chaney’s alleged conduct.”
The complaint does not allege contact, communication, assistance, cooperation or connection of any kind whatsoever between any of the removing defendants and Chaney, according to the notice.
The lawsuit was filed in Cabell Circuit Court in January. It alleges the drug companies sent more than 423 million pain pills into West Virginia between 2007 and 2012, earning $17 billion in net income.
In the last six years, 1,728 West Virginians have overdosed on hydrocodone and oxycodone pills.
Huntington is seeking damages for reimbursement of expenses related to public safety.
The city is represented by Charles R. “Rusty” Webb of the Webb Law Centre.
The drug distributors are represented by Susan M. Robinson and Robert H. Akers of Thomas Combs & Spann; Enu Mainigi, F. Lane Heard and Steven M. Pyser of Williams & Connolly; James R. Wooley and Elizabeth P. Kessler of Jones Day; A.L. Emch and Adam J. Schwendeman of Jackson Kelly; Meredith S. Auten and Eric W. Sitarchuk of Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Jeff Wakefield of Flaherty Sensabuagh & Bonasso; Geoffrey Hobart and Matthew Benov of Covington & Burling.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:17-cv-01362