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John J. Watkins, The Times

CROWN POINT — A lawsuit by the city of Hammond targeting opioid distributors and manufacturers has been consolidated with dozens of other similar lawsuits in a federal court in Ohio.

The local lawsuit, filed Nov. 16 in the U.S. District Court of Northern Indiana, was transferred Dec. 5 to the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio.

It is joined there by 114 similar lawsuits that claim opioid distributors and manufacturers contributed to the current opioid epidemic crisis, either through the deceptive and aggressive marketing of opioid medications, or through a failure to identify, report and stop suspicious orders for these medications.

The transfer order was made by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which is a special body within the federal court system that determines whether similar civil actions pending in different federal districts should be transferred to a single federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings.

Cases are transferred back to their original federal districts for trial. 

The transferred lawsuits originated in 20 states, and were filed by various cities, counties, hospitals and unions, among other entities. Forty-eight of the lawsuits, or 41 percent, were initiated by counties in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Wisconsin.

Lawsuits filed by the cities of LaFayette and Indianapolis, as well as a lawsuit filed by Scott County, also were transferred to Ohio's district court.

The lawsuits were transferred to the Ohio district court because of its geographic centrality, and because the state has "experienced a significant rise in the number of opioid-related overdoses in the past several years and expended significant sums in dealing with the effects of the opioid epidemic,” the judicial panel's order states.

Judge Dan A. Polster will preside over the cases.

The law firm of Cohen & Malad LLP in Indianapolis is representing Hammond in the lawsuit. The firm did not respond Friday to a request for comment. 

The Lake County Board of Commissioners signed an agreement last week with Cohen & Malad LLP to file a similar lawsuit on the county's behalf. 

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Courts and social justice reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.