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Trial against opioid distributors begins in WVa

May 4, 2021 GMT
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, left, and lawyer Rusty Webb enter the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Charleston, W. Va., Monday, May 3, 2021, for the start of the opioid trial. The trial is set to start in a lawsuit filed in West Virginia accusing three drug distributors of fueling a local opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers over several years. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, left, and lawyer Rusty Webb enter the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Charleston, W. Va., Monday, May 3, 2021, for the start of the opioid trial. The trial is set to start in a lawsuit filed in West Virginia accusing three drug distributors of fueling a local opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers over several years. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, left, and lawyer Rusty Webb enter the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Charleston, W. Va., Monday, May 3, 2021, for the start of the opioid trial. The trial is set to start in a lawsuit filed in West Virginia accusing three drug distributors of fueling a local opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers over several years. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A trial began Monday in a lawsuit filed in West Virginia accusing three drug distributors of fueling a local opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers over several years.

The city of Huntington and Cabell County filed the lawsuit against drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. The trial is in federal court in Charleston.

A judge last month rejected the companies’ attempt to dismiss the case. Hundreds of similar lawsuits have been filed across the country.

“It is fitting that the trial will proceed in West Virginia, which has been ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” plaintiff’s attorneys Paul Farrell and Anne McGinness Kearse said in a statement.

West Virginia has the nation’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate. In separate, similar lawsuits, the state reached a $37 million settlement with McKesson in 2019 and $20 million with Cardinal Health and $16 million with AmerisourceBergen in 2017.