Morning Headlines: Pharmaceutical Giant Settles with Summit, Cuyahoga; DeWine Calls for Vaping Ban

Oct 2, 2019

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Oct. 2:

  • Johnson & Johnson settles with Summit, Cuyahoga;
  • DeWine pushes for vaping ban;
  • Drug stores trying to remove judge from US opioid litigation;
  • Cuyahoga County uses grant to identify sexual assault suspects;
  • OuterBox to move out of downtown Akron to Copley;
  • October brings record-shattering heat;
  • Ohio, Michigan get grants to help detect toxic algae;
  • State agency reports 2% drop in induced abortions in 2018;
  • No bidders for coal leases inside Ohio national forest;
  • Summit County reports $3M in unclaimed funds;
  • KSU arrests 21-year-old accused of on-campus assault;

Johnson & Johnson settles with Summit, Cuyahoga
Johnson & Johnson has reached an agreement worth more than $20 million with Summit and Cuyahoga counties, becoming the latest company to settle a lawsuit over the nation’s opioid crisis. The deal comes a little more than a month after an Oklahoma judge ordered the health care conglomerate to pay $572 million over its marketing of opioids in that state. It was announced less than three weeks before the scheduled start of the first federal trial over the opioid crisis. The deal includes provisions for the company to reimburse the counties up to $5 million for legal expenses and contribute another $5.4 million to nonprofit organizations that deal with the opioid crisis in northeastern Ohio. Johnson & Johnson still faces some 2,000 other lawsuits related to the nation's opioids epidemic.

DeWine calls for vaping ban
Gov. Mike DeWine has asked lawmakers to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products as concerns grow about the health effects of vaping. Although other states have issued emergency bans, DeWine said he doesn't have such authority and is seeking legislation. One such Ohio bill was already introduced last week, banning the sale of flavored vaping products and creating a committee to study the effects of vaping products on health. The Ohio Health Department has identified 22 cases of severe breathing illnesses likely caused by vaping, and is investigating 19 additional cases. More than 800 cases of similar lung illness have been reported across the U.S., including several deaths.

Drug stores trying to remove judge from US opioid litigation
A group of drug retailers and distributors has asked an Ohio federal appeals court to disqualify the judge overseeing national opioid litigation after the judge himself denied their requests. Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and drug distributors including Cardinal Health told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that Cleveland-based U.S. District Judge Dan Polster is not impartial. Polster made the initial ruling on their claim, declining Thursday to remove himself from the massive multidistrict litigation and insisting he has remained neutral. Defense attorneys argued in Tuesday's filing that Polster has been too involved in settlement talks surrounding the more than 2,000 cases in which cities, counties, tribal governments and unions seek damages from the pharmaceutical industry for the national opioid crisis. The latest in the dispute comes less than three weeks before the first jury trial is set to begin.

Cuyahoga County uses grant to identify sexual assault suspects
Cuyahoga County is using a federal grant to hire a private lab to investigate and identify 10 John Doe rape suspects. The grant is one of two awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice totaling $3 million. The money will also help the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force complete more than 1,200 open sexual assault cases. The task force has helped to indict more than 700 rape suspects since 2013. Cases involving more than one victim from the same John Doe suspect are top priority.

OuterBox to move out of downtown Akron to Copley
An Akron-based technology company is moving out of downtown and into the suburbs. The Beacon Journal reports OuterBox Solutions is outgrowing its South Main Street location and will expand in Copley in west Akron by early next year. The state recently approved a $235,000 tax credit to help OuterBox with the move. It must create 50 new full-time jobs by the end of 2020.

October brings record-shattering heat
Records were shattered Tuesday across the region for the hottest ever start to October. Temperatures topped 91 in Akron and 93 in Cleveland, breaking the previous records set in 1927 and 1952 respectively. The normal highs for this time of year are in the upper 60’s. The temperature is expected to rise into the mid-80s on Wednesday and Thursday before plummeting to a more autumn-like high of 60 on Friday. September was the third straight month with above normal temperatures.

Ohio, Michigan get grants to help detect toxic algae
Researchers in Ohio and Michigan have been awarded a nearly $900,000 grant to develop rapid detections systems for toxic algae. The grant is part of $10 million in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration focusing on the scourge. Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, and the University of Toledo are among the teams working together over the next two years to test portable systems that can rapidly detect cyanotoxins. This year’s bloom of toxic blue-green algae on Lake Erie grew to 620 square miles.

State agency reports 2% drop in induced abortions in 2018
The Ohio Department of Health said the number of induced abortions in the state continued a downward trajectory last year. The department said in a report released Tuesday that 20,425 abortions were reported last year for a drop of 2% from the 20,893 reported in 2017. Officials said last year's decrease is part of a downward trend in abortions that began in 2001. The 2018 ratio of 142 abortions per 1,000 live births was slightly down from 2017. Data shows 56% of abortions last year involved pregnancies of less than six weeks. A new Ohio ban on abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat would affect those types of pregnancies. That so-called "heartbeat law" has been blocked during a court challenge. Another 30% involved pregnancies of nine to 12 weeks.

No bidders for coal leases inside Ohio national forest
The federal government said it received no bids during a competitive lease sale for coal underneath about 430 acres of Ohio's Wayne National Forest. Leases involved seven tracts in Perry and Morgan counties that contain an estimated 1.4 million tons of sub-surface mineable federal coal. The sale came in response to a lease application by CCU Coal and Construction, which already operates an adjacent privately-owned underground coal mine. But there were no bids.

Summit County reports $3M in unclaimed funds
Summit County is looking for people associated with more than $3 million in unclaimed funds. The county fiscal office will have tables set up at participating Acme Fresh Markets to help residents search for their name and help file claims if money is owed. Unclaimed funds are caused by overpayments, lost heirs accounts and sheriff sale proceeds. To find out if there's going to be a table at an Acme near you, click here.

KSU arrests 21-year-old accused of on-campus assault
Kent State University police arrested a man in connection with an assault on campus Monday morning. The university said a female student walking near the fitness track by the DeWeese Health Center was attacked by a man who pulled down her pants, causing her to fall. She suffered minor injuries. Hours later, police arrested Christopher Clark, 21, who is not a Kent State student. Police are still investigating.