WASHINGTON – Multi district judges consolidated 155 opioid suits from 25 courts on Dec. 5, and chose District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland to preside over them.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation reached its decisions five days after holding a hearing on consolidation in St. Louis.
Panel chair Sarah Vance wrote that all the actions implicate common fact questions as to allegedly improper marketing and widespread diversion. She also wrote that although individual issues might arise, they don’t negate the efficiencies to be gained by centralization at this early stage.
“As reflected in our questions at oral argument, this litigation might evolve to include additional categories of plaintiffs and defendants, as well as different types of claims," she wrote. “We will address whether to include specific actions or claims through the conditional transfer order process.”
Vance said centralization in Northern Ohio would serve the convenience of parties and witnesses.
“Ohio has a strong factual connection to this litigation, given that it has experienced a significant rise in the number of opioid related overdoses in the past several years and expended significant sums in dealing with the effects of the opioid epidemic," she wrote, adding that the district presents a geographically central and accessible forum relatively close to headquarters of defendants.
“Indeed, one of the big three distributor defendants, Cardinal Health, is based in Ohio.”
Vance said Polster’s experience in multi district litigation over gadolinium contrast dyes, which involved several hundred cases, provided him valuable insight into the management of complex litigation.
Hunter Shkolnik of New York City, representing three Ohio cities, recommended Polster at the panel’s hearing on Nov. 30.