High-profile trial over who should pay for the opioid crisis begins

 

The U.S. opioids epidemic has claimed more than 400,000 lives and left millions of people addicted, strained health care, law enforcement and social service systems, cost governments billions, and bankrupted the best-known manufacturer of narcotic painkillers.

Now, 12 ordinary people will decide whether drug companies should be held responsible for the worst drug crisis in U.S. history and forced to pay billions of dollars to help clean it up.

That effort begins Wednesday in U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s Cleveland courtroom on the 18th floor of the federal building here, where attorneys will start picking a jury for the landmark trial.

Described as the most complex litigation ever, the trial will begin to sort out the welter of accusations over the crisis. While six drug companies are defendants in the case, jurors also may hear blame cast widely on doctors, government agencies and perhaps even drug users themselves. The jury’s response will help decide who should bear the cost of one of this century’s worst public health crises.

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