(Reuters) - The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that two Ohio counties can proceed in a landmark bellwether trial accusing opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers of sparking a drug abuse epidemic that the counties have spent billions of dollars to combat. Judges Alan Norris, Eugene Siler and Karen Moore denied a mandamus petition by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who had asked the 6th Circuit to enjoin the Oct. 21 trial to protect the state’s sovereign power to bring claims on behalf of Ohio residents.
The 6th Circuit’s unsigned, three-page order said Ohio should not have resorted to the extraordinary remedy of a mandamus petition when it could have argued that point by intervening in the multidistrict opioids litigation in federal court in Cleveland, where more than 2,300 suits by local governments have been consolidated for pre-trial proceedings. In fact, the appeals court said, some defendants in the MDL made similar state-sovereignty arguments ahead of the scheduled bellwether trial. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster rejected them in an opinion issued in December 2018.