ABBVIE Stock- Allergan loses bid to escape New York opioid trial
AbbVie Inc’s Allergan Finance LLC unit will face trial alongside a slew of drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies over claims by New York’s attorney general and two counties that it fueled an opioid addiction crisis, a New York judge has ruled.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo on Monday denied Allergan’s motion to be severed from the June 22 trial, rejecting its argument that it should not be “lumped” with other defendants because it accounted for a very small share of the opioid market.
“Allergan’s last-minute ‘Hail Mary’ attempt at avoiding a showdown before a New York jury failed, judgment day is here,” Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik, a lawyer for Nassau County, said in an email.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “We are committed to exposing the illicit conduct that took place and holding each of these companies responsible for their role in the opioid crisis, and will continue fighting for justice for victims.”
“We are encouraged but not surprised by the court’s refusal to grant Allergan’s motion to sever,” said Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy, a lawyer for Suffolk County. “Their last-ditch effort to delay their day of reckoning was unsuccessful and we look forward to presenting their case to a jury on June 22nd.”
An AbbVie spokeswoman and Allergan attorney Jennifer Levy of Kirkland & Ellis did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Other defendants in Nassau and Suffolk’s 2017 lawsuit include drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and distributors McKesson Corp and Cardinal Health Inc. The counties claim that drugmakers misleadingly promoted opioids to doctors and that distributors ignored red flags of abuse.
The lawsuit is one of more than 3,300 nationally over the opioid epidemic, which has resulted in nearly 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States over two decades. Trials are already underway in California and West Virginia, following a year of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a motion for severance, Allergan said its only potential liability stemmed from Kadian, a drug it acquired in 2009 long after the plaintiffs allege most misleading opioid marketing took place. It said the market share for Kadian, which it stopped selling last year, was “so minuscule that it ’rounds to zero.'”
“But by lumping Allergan in a months-long joint trial with 11 other defendant groups – manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies alike – plaintiffs clearly expect that they can overwhelm the jury with evidence about other defendants such that jurors treat Allergan just like everyone else, even though it is fundamentally unlike its co-defendants,” the company said.
Allergan said that the plaintiffs were trying to hold it liable for the conduct of former subsidiaries, including Actavis Inc, that sold significant amount of generic opioids, even though those subsidiaries were sold to Teva in 2016.
Garguilo said Monday that Allergan’s responsibility for those sales was a question for the jury.
“Whether and to what extent these third parties were under the control of (Allergan) are disputed material facts,” the judge wrote, denying the motion.
The case is People of the State of New York v. McKinsey & Co Inc, Suffolk Supreme Court, No. 400001/2021.
For Nassau County: Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik
For Suffolk County: Justin Presnal of Simmons Hanly Conroy
For New York: David Nachman of the New York Office of Attorney General
For Allergan: Jennifer Levy of Kirkland & Ellis
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