Jury Selection Begins In First Federal Trial Over Opioid Epidemic

CLEVELAND (AP) — Jury selection began Wednesday in the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic despite a last-minute request from lawyers to delay it because of news reports on a settlement offer.

Two Ohio counties claim drug companies that made, distributed and sold prescription painkillers engaged in a deadly conspiracy that has inflicted massive damage on their communities and created a public nuisance that costs the counties hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The legal situation became a bit more complicated Wednesday as multiple defendants asked Judge Dan Polster to delay the trial after reports that the three big drug distributors were offering a total of $18 billion over 18 years to settle the suits set for trial and some 2,000 others.

Two people with knowledge of the talks confirmed to The Associated Press that the offer had been made. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose details from ongoing talks. The offer was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The lawyers argued that jurors who read or saw any of the coverage would be tainted when learning of the massive amount of money possibly being discussed.

Polster denied the motions

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