PHILADELPHIA – Global law firm Reed Smith, working alongside two other law firms, achieved a complete defense win in a major case involving three of the largest wholesale distributors of prescription drugs and other health care products in the United States.
Close-up of an assortment of tablets and capsules in vials

The case arose from the opioid crisis, resulting in claims against leading pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen (AB), Cardinal Health and McKesson. The case was brought by the City of Huntington and Cabell County, W.Va. The plaintiffs sought relief of $2.5 billion to address the effects of the crisis in their community. The resulting three-month trial in West Virginia took evidence from 70 witnesses.

Reed Smith represented AB, Williams & Connolly represented Cardinal Health, and Covington & Burling represented McKesson.

On July 4, U.S. District Judge David Faber handed the three distributors a complete defense victory. Faber found that all three had programs in place to meet their opioid responsibilities. He also found that the “overwhelming majority” of doctors were acting in good faith in their prescribing of opioids, and that distributors appropriately responded to good faith prescribing. He rejected the plaintiffs’ legal theory that the distribution of these medicines could establish a public nuisance.

The Reed Smith team was led by Robert Nicholas, a partner in the firm’s Global Commercial Disputes Group, alongside partners Shannon McClure, Joseph Mahady, Anne Rollins, Louis Schack and Kim Watterson. The team also included counsel Jeffrey Melton, and associates Abigail Pierce, Kristen Ashe, Alyssa Conn, and Cliff Breese.

Nicholas commented: “We are delighted with the outcome of this very important trial. AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson play a vital role in the delivery of health care. The opioid epidemic has given rise to the largest wave of high-stakes litigation that the country has ever seen. More than 3,300 cases have been filed against manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, accusing them of causing the crisis. This case was the bellwether trial for the distributors and as such there was a great deal at stake.”

“Our dedicated team worked very closely alongside AmerisourceBergen’s in-house lawyers and also with the other two law firms defending our respective clients. We focused the case on the good-faith decisions of doctors and how the three distributors appropriately responded to those decisions and the judge found our arguments persuasive in rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims.”

Following the trial win, ALM Media’s Litigation Daily named the joint lead defense counsel as recipients of its ‘Litigator of the Week’ honor. Download the Litigation Daily pdf to read more.