The landmark opioid epidemic trial in Central Islip against three remaining drug manufacturers and a drug distributor will continue despite Tuesday’s $1.1 billion settlement with other companies, attorneys for Nassau and Suffolk counties said.
They called the remaining manufacturers big players in the industry.
The trial is "not over at all," Jane Conroy, an attorney representing Suffolk County, said in an interview with Newsday.
The manufacturers still on trial "are huge ... some of the largest in the country … our focus remains on the ongoing trial against the remaining defendants and ensuring they are held accountable for their actions."
The New York opioid litigation is the first case of its kind in the nation to go before a jury, which is expected to hear from hundreds of witnesses over months.
Lawyers for the state and counties say they will prove that the defendants created a "public nuisance" by pushing the drugs that created the opioid epidemic that has devastated Long Island families and communities.
Attorneys for the drugmakers and distributors have said their clients are not responsible for the opioid epidemic, arguing that they followed all regulations and are being made scapegoats for the actions of health regulators who encouraged opioid use, doctors who overprescribed the painkillers and other forces beyond their control.
Conroy said Tuesday that Suffolk will continue to call witnesses and experts to testify.
Hunter J. Shkolnik, an attorney for Nassau County, told Newsday, "We are continuing as if nothing happened." He added that he expects the trial to go another four weeks.
New York State, along with Suffolk and Nassau counties, reached the agreement Tuesday with Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen and McKesson as part of negotiations the opioid companies are finalizing this week with multiple states. The trial started in late June. Officials billed it as the biggest opioid settlement in U.S. history.
The three manufacturers left on trial are Allergan PLC, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Endo International, attorneys said, while the distributor Anda Pharmaceutical Products also remains on trial.
The proposed $26 billion national settlement with manufacturers and distributors of opioids "has no effect" on the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Central Islip, Shkolnik said. "New York State and counties have a stand-alone settlement against the Big Three distributors."
Suffolk and Nassau’s acceptance of the settlement, which is part of the national package being proposed, may serve as a bellwether to other governments around the country and encourage them to also accept the agreement, Conroy said.
"It’s a very big deal for New York, that we’re the first," she said. "To endorse the New York piece of the global settlement is a huge shot in the arm for the global settlement so that it would take place nationally."
She said that "Suffolk County is pleased to see the three major opioid distributors be held accountable for their part in creating this crisis," noting that the money will help communities hard-hit by the opioid crisis.
"While no amount of money can bring back those we have lost, this agreement will help prevent future tragedies from occurring and make this community stronger and safer by funding desperately needed abatement programs," she said.
The trial continued Tuesday morning after the settlement was announced, with a former EMS director for Suffolk County testifying.
State Supreme Court Judge Jerry Garguilo told the jury that some of the defendants were no longer participating in the case, and to not speculate why or let that influence them. He read the names of the defendants who are not part of the trial anymore.
He also reminded the jury to avoid reading or seeing any media coverage of any kind of the trial.
Before the jury came in, the attorneys for the companies that settled thanked the judge and the court staff for their work. Then the judge bid them goodbye as they left the courtroom.