A federal judge on Monday ruled in favor of three drug companies, finding that they did not cause a public nuisance by shipping millions of opioids to a West Virginia community wracked by overdoses, The Washington Post reports.
Judge David Faber on Monday dismissed a lawsuit from Cabell County and Huntington, W.Va., alleging that AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson held responsibility for the consequences of the opioid inundation.
The drug companies denied wrongdoing, arguing that the opioids were prescribed by licensed doctors and filled by pharmacies.
The companies argue they have no way of telling which prescriptions may be illegitimate and whether some of the drugs may be funneled to the black market.
Faber ruled that the plaintiffs did not prove that the companies’ conduct was unreasonable and that the conduct could not be connected to the harm suffered by the communities.
He also noted that the plaintiffs had not devised a specific plan detailing how money awarded in the lawsuit would be spent if they won.
The rise of pills flowing to the state was the result of “good faith dispensing” and increased limits set by the Drug Enforcement Administration, he wrote.
“The opioid crisis has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington. And while there is a natural tendency to assign blame in such cases, they must be decided not based on sympathy, but on the facts and the law,” Faber wrote. “In view of the court’s findings and conclusions, the court finds that judgment should be entered in defendants’ favor.”
“The extension of the law of nuisance to cover the marketing and sale of opioids is inconsistent with the history and traditional notions of nuisance,” he added.
State rejected previous deal:
The three companies previously agreed to pay $21 billion to states, counties and cities that sued them but West Virginia did not take part in the agreement.
“We are deeply disappointed personally and for the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington," the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a statement. “We felt the evidence that emerged from witness statements, company documents, and extensive datasets showed these defendants were responsible for creating and overseeing the infrastructure that flooded West Virginia with opioids.”