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Start of McLean County's Opioid Lawsuit Moved To Cook County

Oxycodone pills
Keith Srakocic
The defendants in McLean County's lawsuit include some of the highest-profile names tied to the opioid crisis, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson.

Pretrial proceedings in McLean County’s lawsuit against drugmakers and distributors over the opioid epidemic have been moved to Cook County and consolidated with other Illinois cases.

McLean County filed the lawsuit in August against 45 defendants, including many already facing opioid-related litigation in other jurisdictions. The defendants include some of the highest-profile names tied to the opioid crisis, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson.

Several drug manufacturers named in the suit recently asked for McLean County’s case to be moved to Cook County, so pretrial proceedings can be held concurrently with other, similar cases. That request was granted by the Illinois Supreme Court. There are at least 16 other counties that that were transferred and consolidated with a pending Cook County opioid case.

Attorneys for the drug manufacturers said moving the case to Cook County will “eliminate duplicative discovery and pretrial litigation, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and promote judicial efficiency and conserve judicial resources,” according to a copy of the filing.

“Consolidation at this early stage of the litigation will allow the parties to avoid the time, effort, and expense, of litigating these nearly identical actions simultaneously in separate forums,” they wrote.

The county did not object to the move. Should the case make it to trial, it’s likely to return to McLean County.

Since McLean County filed its lawsuit, Purdue Pharma has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That came after the Sackler family agreeing to relinquish ownership of the company. It’s unclear how the bankruptcy will impact county-level litigation.

Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and that doctors were prescribing them to address patient pain.

But the plaintiffs in various lawsuits argue that company officials intensively marketed opioids and downplayed their addictive risks, laying the groundwork for the opioid crisis, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and is often described as a national emergency. McLean County drug overdoses spiked in 2017, with 40 deaths.

Melissa Sims is representing McLean County in the lawsuit. Sims is also representing LaSalle County in similar litigation.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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