Federal judge remands Missouri hospital opioid case to state court

In a victory for 12 Missouri hospitals, a federal judge has remanded a case against opioid drug makers, distributors and retailers back to state court.

The group of hospitals filed the civil suit in April seeking compensation from the defendants for two decades of financial harm from the opioid epidemic.

Last month, the defendants attempted to move the case to the U.S District Court for the Western District of Missouri Southern Division, but on June 15, U.S District Judge Roseann A. Ketchmark ruled the move was without merit and decided in favor of the hospitals' motion to keep the case in Missouri state court.

Judge Ketchmark remanded the case back to Greene County Circuit Court where it was originally filed. In her ruling, Judge Ketchmark wrote that due to the particular state-law claims made by the plaintiffs, the federal court lacks jurisdiction.

"We're extremely gratified Judge Ketchmark agreed with our motion to keep this important case in our state," said Greg Aleshire, attorney with Aleshire Robb & Rapp, in Springfield, which represents the hospitals. "

As the COVID-19 pandemic puts additional pressure on hospital finances, receiving compensation for their financial losses due to the opioid epidemic is more critical than ever."

Opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers contributed to the weakened financial state of hospitals as the nation entered the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many to close and pushed hundreds of others to the brink of closure.

"This decision will allow the case to move more expeditiously through the courts and hopefully secure desperately needed funding to struggling rural and community hospitals in this time of unprecedented crisis," said Don Barrett, of Barrett Law Group, who serves as additional counsel for plaintiffs both in Missouri and in state-based cases across the country.

The Missouri hospitals join more than 650 hospitals across the United States to file state-based lawsuits against the manufacturers, distributors and retailers responsible for the opioid crisis.

The original case number is 2031-CC00459 in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Missouri.

Judge Ketchmark's order is 6:20-03152-CV-RK in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Southern Division.