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Utah Supreme Court rejects Davis Co. arguments in opioid lawsuit

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Posted at 3:00 PM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-26 03:04:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has rejected Davis County's demand to obtain evidence in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers separately from other counties in the state.

In a ruling published Saturday, the state's top court said that while Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings' office made some strong points, ultimately the pre-trial discovery phase of the opioid litigation should be combined with others.

"In affirming the transfer order in this case we do not disparage the prerogative of a plaintiff like Davis County to select its home district as the forum of its choice," Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee wrote. "Nor should this opinion be viewed as opening the floodgates to cross-district transfers in Utah generally. A plaintiff’s choice of its home forum should not be overridden lightly. Multi-district litigation, moreover, is not without its drawbacks, and we are not suggesting that a motion to transfer a case from one district to another should be granted lightly."

A number of Utah counties are suing pharmaceutical giants over the opioid crisis, accusing them of misleading doctors and consumers about the safety of their drugs. Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies have sought to consolidate all 15 of Utah counties' lawsuits into one based in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court, Justice Lee wrote. But Davis County resisted and fought the issue all the way to the Court.

In its ruling, the Utah Supreme Court did suggest the state court system consider a rule regarding transfer of cases across lower courts, rather than bringing all of them to the justices.