CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Attorneys representing an array of pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies addressed the West Virginia Judiciary Mass Litigation Panel on Friday regarding litigation pertaining to hundreds of children throughout the state who were born addicted to opioids.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, has impacted countless families throughout the country, with the state of West Virginia having been particularly impacted by the effects of the condition, which emerges in children exposed to opioids while in utero. Pharmaceutical representatives appeared at Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Charleston on Friday to argue for the dismissal of the NAS lawsuit.
Marc E. Williams of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough addressed the panel early on as lead council for the manufacturing defendants.
“All of these cases are individual plaintiff personal injury cases,” said Williams, who would go on to argue that no misleading information was provided by these manufacturers which caused harm to the patients.
Attorney Webster J. Arceneaux of Lewis Glasser spoke on behalf of Rite Aid, CVS, Kroger Company, Walgreens, and Walmart during the hearing, imploring that the panel dismiss due to technical formalities and alluding to previously established precedents.
“In this case it has been undisputed that there has been no notice, and there has been no Certificate of Merit, which is jurisdictional under the case law in West Virginia,” said Arceneaux.
“We think that this panel has no alternative but to dispense these cases because it is clear from the case log of our Supreme Court that the notice and the Certificate of Merit have to be filed in advance of the suit. That was not done here, there is no dispute with regard to that.”
Stephen New of New, Taylor & Associates, addressing the panel on behalf of the plaintiffs, offered specific names of providers and producers in his detailing of the strategic implementation of opioid distribution throughout the state.
Among the names given were Dr. Iraj Derakhshan, a neurologist in the Beckley and Charleston areas, and Dr. J.J. Gordinho, a nephrologist pain management doctor with over half a dozen clinics in Virginia and West Virginia.
Consulting firm McKinsey, which has long been immersed in legal proceedings with regard to their role in the distribution of opioids, was also namechecked by the attorney during Friday’s hearing.
“McKinsey, the architect, the advisor, micro-targeted physicians in the state of West Virginia,” New asserted. “These doctors were top targeted physicians on McKensey’s list that it used with this granular detailing of where Purdue, Endo, Johnson & Johnson, and others should target their activities in West Virginia.”
With regard to private investment firm SK Capital, which harbors special interest in the pharmaceuticals sector, New stated, “SK Capital not only did business in West Virginia, SK Capital did business with the state of West Virginia.
At about the same time the Board of Pharmacy was getting in trouble for not monitoring suspicious orders, SK Capital solicited or had involvement with the West Virginia investment management board from 2016 to 2018. Not only that, since the time that SK Capital acquired Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, SK Capital has continued to register its products through the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy.”
New would further assert that this attention to the state of West Virginia by these companies was informed by statistics pertaining to cases of NAS in the state during the period between 2011 and 2014, at which time “NAS exploded; tripled.”
He would ultimately make a request of the panel that each of the jurisdictional motions be denied, stating,
“We would respectfully request that this panel deny any of these jurisdictional motions, or at a minimum, prevent jurisdictional discovery moving forward.”
Friday’s court proceedings came about as a result of lawsuits filed by families of children who had been diagnosed with NAS, and over a dozen cases against many of the aforementioned defendants remain pending before the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel.
While defendants in the case make the claim that the above entities cannot reasonably be held responsible for the circumstances suffered by the affected children, representation for the plaintiffs assert that these organizations bear direct responsibility and that the children impacted deserve justice.