Attorney: Test cases coming

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

A Tulsa lawyer representing local governments in federal-court opioid litigation briefed the Osage County Board of Commissioners in their Tuesday meeting about the potential for claims being settled by drug companies.

George Gibbs told the Osage County commissioners that some test cases are scheduled to go to trial. Once a judge tries some of those cases, it is possible that he or she could decide to bring all the plaintiffs and defendants into a bargaining situation to settle the remaining cases, Gibbs said. Osage County decided in 2018 to join in opioid-addiction litigation.

“I think that will be an excellent chance for our case to resolve,” Gibbs said. “Right now, we’re just in a wait-and-see position until these test cases go to trial.”

Gibbs also told the county commissioners that Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s state court opioid lawsuit, which is proceeding in Cleveland County, is currently embroiled in a “bitter discovery battle.” Gibbs said defense attorneys are attempting to use subpoenas to get around discovery limitations that have been set in that case.

“I think that judge is going to be pissed off,” Gibbs said, referring to the likely reaction of the judge in the state-level case to the defense’s attempt to skirt discovery limits. A hearing in that case is scheduled for March 14, Gibbs said.

During his presentation Tuesday, Gibbs introduced himself to new Osage County District Attorney Mike Fisher and pledged to be in touch with him about the opioid litigation to which the county is a party.

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay and Gibbs each spoke of having been harmed by the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“I’ve had family members that have been addicte to opioids,” Gibbs said, adding he has also been a victim of barns being broken into and property being stolen.

The purpose of the litigation involving local governments is to make sure they aren’t left out in the cold in the event of a settlement by drug companies. Local governments would be likely to get little, if anything, out of the state court case.