Major opioid epidemic trial begins in New York

Drug manufacturers and jurors are facing a jury.

June 29, 2021, 1:32 PM

A dozen drug manufacturers and distributors accused of fueling the nation's opioid epidemic face a jury for the first time Tuesday during opening statements at what could be the most consequential opioids trial so far.

New York and two of its largest counties, Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island, are seeking to hold Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo International, McKesson, Cardinal Health and other corporations responsible for the deadly epidemic, accusing them of contributing to a public nuisance.

Johnson & Johnson avoided this trial by settling Saturday for $230 million. CVS settled with Nassau and Suffolk counties.

There have been similar cases to go on trial in California and in West Virginia. Oklahoma won a $465 million judgment in the nation’s first trial. Unlike those, however, the one taking place in Central Islip is being heard by six jurors who will weigh assertions that both marketing and distribution of narcotic painkillers fostered widespread addiction and abuse.

The trial is unfolding in a 450-seat amphitheater at the Touro College Law Center, rather than a state courthouse, to accommodate a legion of lawyers and spectators.

"The eyes of the world are on New York as we prepare to lay bare the callous and deadly pattern of misconduct these companies perpetrated as they dealt dangerous and addictive opioids across our state," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in statement provided to ABC News.

If drug companies are found liable for harms in Nassau and Suffolk, they may effectively be liable for harms in dozens of other New York counties. The trial could also be a bellwether for other opioid cases across the country.

Related Topics