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Judge with No MDL Experience Deemed Unqualified to Preside over Opioid MDL

A former judge and now private practice attorney was openly laughed at during an MDL panel in Illinois when she suggested they should give a nation’s worth of opioid cases to a judge who had never presided over a national litigation.

Ann Callis, formerly a chief judge in Madison County, Illinois and now practicing law privately as an attorney addressed the panel in late November and requested that every opioid-related lawsuit be transferred under U.S. District Judge Staci Yandle. The exchange that followed prompted laughter from both the panel and those attending the panel’s proceedings.

Upon hearing Ms. Callis’ request, the chair of the panel; Sarah Vance, who is a district judge in Eastern Louisiana, asked Ms. Callis whether Judge Yandle has ever presided over an MDL.

“No ma’am, she does not,” came the reply. Ms. Vance; understandably amused at the suggestion, went on. “And you want to give her this one?”

Among Judge Yandle’s qualifications for handling the monumental task of hearing the various sides involved in the nationwide opioid epidemic, assigning responsibility, doling out punishments, and trying to restore some sense of order to the lives of millions of American families ripped apart by a national tragedy born largely out of greed and corruption, Ms. Callis cited her intellect, legal ability, and temperament.

Ms. Callis was then thanked for her time and dismissed.

The formation of an MDL is the result of numerous lawsuits filed by government entities against Big Pharma for its role in perpetuating the crisis. Those entities represent towns, cities, and even entire states including Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, and West Virginia. In many cases, these states have seen their communities flooded with opioids. For example, according to a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of West Virginia, Mingo County received 3.4 million doses of opioid painkillers in 2007. However, when that number is cross referenced against those that actually possessed legitimate prescriptions for the powerful drugs, the result is enough drugs to dose each one of those prescription holders every hour and fifteen minutes.

In the end, the MDL was assigned to US District Court Judge Dan Polster of Ohio. He is a former US Attorney and has been a judge since 1998. He is well regarded among his peers, and the MDL panel itself has said that it has “no doubt that Judge Polster will steer this litigation on a prudent course.”

It should also be noted that Judge Polster has presided over multiple multidistrict litigations in the past, including cases over gadolinium based contrast agents used in MRIs.