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Anne Arundel opioid suit motions on hold pending transfer request

A billboard designed to highlight public awareness in Anne Arundel County tracks the annual toll as of April 30, 2018: 332 overdoses and 56 deaths. (Maximilian Franz)

A billboard designed to highlight public awareness in Anne Arundel County tracks the annual toll as of April 30, 2018: 332 overdoses and 56 deaths. (Maximilian Franz)

Motions to dismiss Anne Arundel County’s opioid lawsuit won’t be ruled on until after a judge determines if the case should be consolidated with the one going on in Baltimore.

The parties argued several motions to dismiss in November, but an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge issued an order Thursday officially deferring any ruling on them until after the Jan. 28 hearing on the motion to transfer, which was filed in October.

The joint motion by the pharmaceutical defendants asked the court to consolidate the litigation under a Maryland Rule that allows for transfer of an action to another circuit court that has jurisdiction and has similar actions pending. The administrative judge for the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, Laura S. Ripken, must make the determination.

The defendants argue the case could have been brought in Baltimore because some of the defendants have regular business in both jurisdictions.

Both cases were filed in January and seek monetary and injunctive relief against pharmaceutical companies and local prescribers. The plaintiffs generally allege the drug companies knowingly misled doctors and consumers about the addictive quality of prescription opioids and manufactured a market by overstating their benefits for chronic pain treatment.

The defendants removed both of the cases to federal court, but a federal judge remanded them back to Maryland. If the cases are consolidated, there can be streamlined coordination with the hundreds of cases pending in the federal multi-district litigation.

The Baltimore defendants have already argued motions to dismiss twice and are awaiting a ruling.

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