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Hearing Dates Set This Summer For Arguments In Opioid Lawsuit

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The judge presiding over the massive opioid lawsuit based in Summit County has scheduled a two-day hearing in late June, to hear  motions from the large group  of defendants who want the case dismissed.   

The dates were set at a hearing held Jan. 10th at Summit County’s Third District Court.

Judge Richard Mrazik set June 25th and 26th, to consider Motions to Dismiss for the litigation,  in which Summit County has been joined by 16 other Utah counties.   They are suing  dozens of defendants, including opioid manufacturers, distributors and doctors.

In March of 2018, Summit was the first Utah county to file a lawsuit against a group of Big Pharma defendants, contending that Summit and many other local governments have been harmed by a national opioid crisis.   The suit said that the defendants, going back about 20 years, engaged in a deceptive marketing campaign that promoted opioids for long-term pain and downplayed the risks of addiction.

At the status hearing held on January 10th, one of the tasks for Judge Mrazik was to give notice to all the defendants and to allow them input before they would be included in the June hearing.

The litigation involves two clusters of defendants.    The Track One defendants are those named in Summit County’s original suit.

Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson told KPCW that Track 2 is comprised of some 50 defendants that were named last year.      

“Those would include the Sackler family, the generic manufacturers, some of the variants of the original defendants, like their DBA’s, or their subsidiaries that we learned about after the filing.    And then some pharmacies that we learned about from the ARCOS data when that information was uncovered a few months ago.”       

Another complication is to deal with Purdue, one of the major defendants, which has declared bankruptcy.      

“Any claims against Purdue, who has filed for bankruptcy protection, are stayed automatically under federal bankruptcy law.   And as you heard, Purdue’s lawyer stood up and argued that the Purdue claims ought to be severed, or taken out of the cases that are going forward.  And the lawyers are supposed to be talking about how practically to do that.   Do we put them into another case number?   They’re gonna be coming up with some suggestions for the judge.   Judge Mrazik is allowing, as he should allow, the lawyers to figure out a way to stipulate and to propose something practical for the court that everyone can work with.”

Judge Mrazik  told Summit’s lead attorney, Colin King, that he has until January 24th to submit a stipulation that all the Track 2 defendants have agreed to join the hearing—or King can submit a Motion that they should do so.

The judge directed the defendants to submit briefings, or new briefings, by June 10th.

In a lighter moment, the Judge wondered how long the hearing will take on the Motions to Dismiss (or MTD’s).   Attorney King said he’ll definitely need two days.       

“(Mrazik) Is this a one-day hearing on these motions?  (King laughs)  Are you talking about, are you suggesting a one-day hearing that would encompass all the MTD’s, both from the Track 2 defendants as well, and the Track 1.  Is that a joke?  Are you joking?  (Mrazik) Apparently not.  (King) No, it’s gotta be—with all due respect to your acumen and your efficiency, Judge, I think you’d better put at least two days.”

Attorney Colin King.

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