Oklahoma's top attorneys are gearing up to battle some powerful opponents, who are defending the nation's leading opioid manufacturers. The Washington Post is now shining a light on the fight and how the upcoming trial could affect people all across America.
Attorney General Mike Hunter is three months away from bringing his case against opioid manufacturers before a jury, and he is getting national attention for doing something no other state has been able to do thus far.
In the past two years, pharmaceutical companies have been slammed with lawsuits from all sides. Oklahoma has the first case, though, to head to a jury trial in Cleveland County, a fast track that is separate from a federal suit of more than 1,600 entities in Cleveland, Ohio.
“That’s consolidated in a massive case that has been going on for a while,” says Washington Post investigative reporter Katie Zezima, “but on the other hand you have states, dozens of Attorneys General who have filed suit, and they’re moving a lot faster than the federal case.”
The Washington Post points out that Oklahoma's lawyers are sifting through 50 million pages of evidence as they prepare. They have already found private emails from the makers of OxyContin that prove a disregard for the people who use their drugs.
But like the federal case, Hunter has said in the past that his goal is not to simply take money from the manufacturers.
“Getting people treatment, getting them help,” he told News 9 in a 2017 interview. “Addiction is an illness. It’s not a sin, but the supply side, we’ve got to make it uneconomic for dealers.”
Lawyers tell The Post that one concern for all these cases, though, is the possibility that the companies may file for bankruptcy before anyone gets paid. Oklahoma could seek more than $1 billion, and that could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Zezima says, “I think that on both sides they’ll be looking to see what happens in Oklahoma because there’s still so much litigation left around the country.”
The trial is set to start May 28, and News 9 will have full coverage on-air and on the News 9 app.