A Las Vegas judge heard arguments Wednesday over which documents pharmaceutical companies will have to turn over to the state in a lawsuit over Nevada’s opioid epidemic.
Attorneys argued at the hearing over a protective order that would allow the more than 40 defendants in the case, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, CVS, Walgreens and retail giant Walmart, to withhold documents they consider to be “confidential” or “highly confidential.”
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford filed the lawsuit in June in District Court accusing drug manufacturers and distributors of propagating the state’s deadly opioid epidemic.
Attorney Robert Eglet spoke on behalf of the state and said that in past litigation and in thousands of pending cases across the country, opioid manufacturers have abused protective orders to avoid revealing embarrassing or incriminating information.
“These defendants are not simply trying to keep proprietary documents or trade secrets confidential,” Eglet said, “They want to keep all documents that would reveal their bad acts as confidential and hidden from the public.”
If the state’s version of the protective order is granted, the defendants will have to provide detailed reasons for why each withheld document is considered confidential.
“The public deserves to know about how these companies gambled with the life, health and safety of the public, all in the interest of profit,” Eglet said.
Daniel Polsenberg, representing the defendants, said there was no need to “change the rules” on how protective orders are handled. He argued that the protective order for this case should mirror orders issued in previous litigation in other jurisdictions.
Polsenberg said the defendants have also been named in more than 2,700 similar lawsuits across the country and that a new protective order would force them to not only duplicate the documents, but spend more time and money adding designations.
“I know the terrorist playbook in litigation,” Polsenberg said, “and one of the things is, if there’s litigation all over the country, you want to make your litigation the absolutely most expensive and the most time consuming so you get the attention.”
The defendants in the case are also competitors, Polsenberg said, and forcing the companies to divulge confidential information could be harmful to their businesses.
Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ordered both sides to submit proposed versions of the protective order for her to review them and find a compromise.
“I am not inclined to sign any of them as is,” she said.