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Michigan's Lawsuit Against Opioid Distributors Continues

LANSING – Michigan’s lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court against major opioid distributors continued this morning through a videoconference hearing before Judge Patricia Perez Fresard.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, representing the State of Michigan, filed a lawsuit in December against Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and Walgreens for their lack of oversight of the distribution and sale of opioid products.

“The actions and inactions taken by these companies puts them on the wrong side of Michigan’s Drug Dealer Liability Act and they must answer for the harm their negligent and careless business models have created,” Nessel said. “These companies knowingly and deliberately used their licenses to distribute drugs in our state without controls, and the opioid crisis has been exacerbated as a result of that, leaving behind a litany of grieving families and grave concerns.”

In its lawsuit, the state charges that Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Walgreens: 

  • Distributed and sold opioids in ways that facilitated and encouraged their flow into the illegal, secondary market; 
  • Distributed and sold opioids without maintaining effective controls against the diversion of opioids; 
  • Chose not to effectively monitor suspicious orders; 
  • Chose not to investigate suspicious orders; 
  • Chose not to report suspicious orders; 
  • Chose not to stop or suspend shipments of suspicious orders; and 
  • Distributed and sold opioids prescribed by “pill mills” when these companies knew or should have know the opioids were being prescribed by said “pill mills.” 

Because the companies knowingly participated in the illegal distribution of the prescription opioids purchased by Michigan residents, the suit charges they are liable to the state of Michigan under the Drug Dealer Liability Act for damages caused by opioids acquired from their distribution channels. Those damages include the State’s expenses for a variety of things, like funding for increased law enforcement and prosecution efforts, to paying for added health care expenses, drug treatment programs and incarceration.

In today’s hearing the court heard arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the state’s claims.  Among other defenses raised, defendants denied having a duty to prevent illegal diversion of opioids, and further claimed they are insulated from liability under Michigan’s Product Liability Act.  Contrary to defendants claims, the State argued that defendants do have the duty and responsibility to ensure that these highly addictive medications are not diverted into illegal distribution and further that the Product Liability Act, which provides a defense to a defective product claim when a drug is FDA approved, does not protect defendants from responsibility for their illegal distribution and exacerbation of the opioids epidemic.

No ruling was made today, but a decision by the court is expected in the coming days or weeks. Future court dates have not yet been set.

Click here to view a copy of the complaint filed in December.