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Judge denies transfer of Anne Arundel opioid case

XXXXX (Photo by Patrick Sison, AP)

Attorneys for opioid manufacturers and distributors sought the transfer of a lawsuit from Anne Arundel County to Baltimore. (Photo by Patrick Sison, AP)

Anne Arundel County’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors will stay in the county after a judge denied the defendants’ request to transfer and consolidate the litigation with a similar case in Baltimore.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Laura S. Ripken issued her ruling Monday, according to Deputy County Attorney Hamilton Tyler.

“We’re pleased that the court denied the motion and feel strongly that this case should be litigated and tried in Anne Arundel County,” Tyler said.

The county and local doctors and their practices named in the lawsuit opposed the transfer.

Baltimore also opposed having Anne Arundel’s lawsuit consolidated with its own; Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said he was pleased with Ripken’s ruling.

“We appreciate the court’s careful consideration of the competing interests at play,” Davis said in a statement Monday. “We look forward to an early and efficient trial proceeding on behalf of Baltimore City here in the City Circuit Court.”

Attorneys for the pharmaceutical companies filed a joint motion to transfer in October, arguing that Baltimore’s case is substantially similar and that it is a waste of judicial resources to have parallel, complex litigation in multiple jurisdictions. The move to Baltimore was requested because the city’s case is slightly further along than Anne Arundel’s and because Baltimore is easier to access by out-of-town parties.

The Maryland Rules allow for the transfer of an action to another circuit court where “the actions to be transferred might have been brought” and where similar actions are pending. The circuit administrative judge first must find that a case qualifies to be transferred.

Ripken conferred with Baltimore City Administrative Judge W. Michel Pierson and both agreed the case should stay in Anne Arundel, Tyler said. The parties now will wait for rulings on motions to dismiss, which were held pending a ruling on the transfer request.

Kevin B. Collins of Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C., argued the motion for the defendants. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The cases are Anne Arundel County v. Purdue Pharma L.P. et al., C-02-CV-18-000021, and Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Purdue Pharma L.P. et al., 24-C-18-000515.

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