Georgian Families’ Opioid Study Begins After COVID Delay

  • The trial takes place first over opioid claims made by individual plaintiffs
  • Claims under Georgian law allowing lawsuits against drug dealers

(Reuters) – A case brought by families of opioid addicts in Georgia, in which drug traffickers Cardinal Health Inc, McKesson Corp and JM Smith Corp were accused of operating as illegal drug dealers, began a second trial on Monday.

The case originally went to trial in Glynn County Superior Court last year but ended in mistrial three days later after Judge Roger Lane canceled it due to rising COVID-19 cases in the area. It was the first trial of opioid claims made by individual plaintiffs rather than government agencies.

The 21 plaintiffs include children whose parents died of an overdose, a woman whose grandson was born with symptoms of opioid addiction and died at one month old, and a woman who was raped as a teenager but received no help from her opioid addict mother received. Attorney Jim Durham told the jury in his opening statement.

He said dealers fueled illicit opioid use by filling illegitimate pharmacy orders and failing to report suspicious opioid purchases to law enforcement, as required by the federal Controlled Substances Act. While pharmacies and doctors are responsible for the addictions of plaintiffs’ family members, Durham said retailers are a critical link in the chain.

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“A pharmacy cannot write a prescription unless these distributors are breaking the law, which they have done time and time again,” he told jurors.

The dealers have denied the allegations, saying they only filled orders for pills and could not be responsible for illegal prescriptions. Randall Jordan of HunterMacLean, an attorney for McKesson, told jurors his client had no way of knowing what prescriptions were being issued or filled because of privacy laws.

McKesson “has no relationship with individuals,” he said.

The trial comes as lawsuits by more than 3,300 state, local and tribal governments against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are being settled, which has resulted in more than $50 billion in settlements.

Unlike those lawsuits, which accused the companies of creating a public nuisance by failing to stem the flow of illicit opioids, the Georgia plaintiffs made their claims under the state’s Drug Dealer Liability Act, which allows individuals who injured by illegal drug use to sue dealers.

The distributors have stated that they cannot be sued as dealers for the fulfillment of orders by registered pharmacies.

Prescriptions for opioids soared in the 1990s as companies aggressively promoted the drugs, long used primarily in cancer patients, as a safe way to treat all types of chronic pain.

Opioid overdoses, including prescription pills and heroin, rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, rising 38% year over year in 2020 and up another 15% in 2021, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The case is Poppell v. Cardinal Health Inc, Glynn County Superior Court, No. CE19-00472.

For plaintiffs: Jim Durham of Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson; Benjamin Fox, John Floyd and Manoj Varghese of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore; and Ron Harrison of The Harrison Firm

For McKesson: Randall Jordan from HunterMacLean

For Cardinal Health: Andrew Keyes of Williams & Connolly

For JM Smith: Nicholas Salter of Fox Rothschild

Continue reading:

Georgia families opioid case ends in court case over COVID

Families in Georgia accuse opioid dealers of illegal drug trafficking

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Brendan Pierson

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pierson covers product liability litigation and all aspects of healthcare law. He can be reached at