U.S. Judge Refuses to Disqualify Himself from Opioid Litigation


A Reuters article quoted Professor Howard Erichson about the ruling by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster to reject the request that he disqualify himself from a pending nationwide opioid case.

The U.S. judge overseeing nationwide opioid litigation on Thursday rejected a request by several big pharmacy chains and drug distributors to disqualify himself because he appeared to be biased against them and pressed too hard for a costly settlement.

Calling the opioid crisis “one of the greatest tragedies of our time,” U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland admitted he had been “very active” in encouraging a settlement, but said he was “confident that no reasonable person can legitimately question my impartiality.”

Companies that sought Polster’s recusal included retailers CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N), and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp (ABC.N), Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N), Henry Schein Inc (HSIC.O) and McKesson Corp (MCK.N).

Legal experts said Polster’s decision was not a surprise.

“After nearly two years of litigation, and on the eve of trial, the defendants decided they didn’t want the judge because they didn’t get favorable rulings,” said Howard Erichson, a Fordham University law professor specializing in mass litigation and legal ethics. “That doesn’t work.”

Lawyers representing the municipalities said in a joint statement: “We are gratified the court has powerfully rejected this last-ditch effort to derail the upcoming trial, which cast unfair and undeserved aspersions on the court.”

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