There was a spat in recent days between lawyers for opioid makers and distributors and incoming Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. DeWine, to be sworn in on Jan. 14, and few other lawyers suing the opioid makers went on CBS’s 60 Minutes show just before Christmas and spouted the usual diatribe that Big Pharma has caused big damage and must be punished with big payments.
Well, the lawyers didn’t like what DeWine was saying on TV and asked the court to punish him for making misleading, inflammatory, and improper public statements. Here’s what he said on 60 Minutes:
“I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics. But I will simply tell you it is shocking. Anyone who was looking at those [prescription] numbers, as those middlemen were, as these distributors were, clearly, clearly should have seen something was dramatically wrong.”
The lawyers for the pill “distributors” filed this “improper extrajudicial statements”
protest in federal court on Friday.
“These lawyers’ professional misconduct is so far outside the bounds of appropriate behavior as to warrant a gag order and other sanctions. Such steps are necessary to help mitigate the unfair and prejudicial effects of the misconduct and to deter similar misconduct in the future. The essential fairness of this proceeding and the rights of the parties are at stake.”
Cleveland attorneys Carole S. Rendon of Baker & Hostetler, and Timothy D. Johnson of Cavitch, Familo & Durkin, were among the lawyers who found DeWine to be “so far outside the bounds of appropriate behavior.”
Federal Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing the class action that has risen from roughly 400 cases last year to about 1,400 this year at last count, had issued a gag order to keep the lawyer noise in the media down to respectable levels. Polster did not rule the ever-growing number of attorneys involved in these case couldn’t talk to the press; he just didn’t want them to be discussing specifics of the cases before the trials started. Especially, given that the plaintiffs tend to be cities, counties and states.
All this comes from the fact that Polster wants to keep the lawyers financially in check somewhat, given that a big part of the money pie that will eventually be divvied up will go into their bank accounts. The Big Pharma lawyers were particularly upset that attorney Mike Moore, famed for his work in the Big Tobacco case of the latest 1990s, told 60 Minutes that, “When a jury hears the evidence in this case, they’re not going to award just a couple hundred million dollars. It may be $100 billion.”
Of course, the defense lawyers didn’t like Moore’s suggestion that the case might be worth $100 billion (they called that number “astronomical”). And they really didn’t like Moore saying, “Don't go try to tell that to 12 jurors in Mississippi or Ohio who've lost people from this. You know what— (LAUGH) you know what those jurors are gonna do? They're gonna go in the back room, they're gonna spend about 30 minutes thinking about it, gonna come back out and bam.”
The opioid defense lawyers against such “professional misconduct” talk did have one other big take on it all, though: “Mr. Moore and Mr. DeWine … shall pay the defendants’ attorneys’ fees and costs incurred as a result of their misconduct.”