Jury trial of opioid makers, distributors begins in New York

Linda Ventura is far from being alone. Her 21-year-old son, Thomas, was one of the thousands of people, each year, who wind up losing their battle with opioid addiction.

"Worst day of my life,"  Ventura said. "He actually came back the night before from treatment and must've thought, 'Just one more time.'"

On Tuesday, opening statements got underway in a landmark trial in Central Islip. The lawsuit — filed by Nassau County, Suffolk County, and the New York attorney general — accuses some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies and distributors of fueling the opioid epidemic. The litigation is the first of its kind in the nation in which a jury rather than a judge will decide the outcome.

"I think the evidence will be overwhelming that they are liable for the death and destruction that's caused the death of [a] countless number of New Yorkers," Attorney General Letitia James said.

Johnson & Johnson settled for more than $230 million and agreed to stop selling the painkillers to avoid trial. In a statement, the pharmaceutical company said its drugs accounted for less than 1% of opioid prescriptions.

A spokesperson for CVS confirmed a settlement had also been reached with Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

The chains Rite Aid, Walmart, and Walgreens were severed from the case but have not returned requests for comment.

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Companies that settled prior will likely save money in the long run, according to legal analyst Imran Ansari.

"We don't know what the jury is going to do in this case," Ansari said. "They may really hit these other companies with an even more significant verdict."

Drug experts told FOX 5 NY that Suffolk was the top county in the state for the shipment of prescription opioids and Nassau was fourth. 

Opening statements will continue into Wednesday. The trial is expected to last from four to six weeks with hundreds of witnesses likely taking the stand.

And while no amount of money will ever make up for those who lost their lives, Ventura is asking for accountability.

"It's not going to change my life," she said. "But it can absolutely change the future."