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Attorney Holly Nighbert is a partner in the Complex Litigation Department at Simmons Hanly Conroy, focusing her practice on prescription opioids, pharmaceutical and other mass tort litigation. She represents everyday people, businesses and municipalities who have been harmed by major corporations, particularly medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Since she started at the firm in 2012, she has helped recover over a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of those harmed by corporate wrongdoing.
Holly became a lawyer to help people who need it most. Through her work, she seeks to even the playing field for the average person and their families or communities who were harmed by large pharmaceutical companies with unlimited resources.
“My clients are up against some of the largest companies in the world, and the work I’m doing to hold those companies accountable makes a very big difference for real, everyday people,” she said.
Holly has extensive experience litigating every aspect of a case, from signing the client to working up discovery and depositions or serving on the trial team in court. Her past representative cases include DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implants, Propecia, Transvaginal Mesh, Lipitor, Mirena, Invokana, Taxotere and Wright Medical Hip Implants.
Holly is a key member of the firm’s opioid litigation team, which represents local governments across the country in state and federal courts. The opioid lawsuits allege drug companies contributed to the opioid crisis by carelessly promoting painkillers and downplaying addiction risks. The litigation seeks to secure meaningful funds for communities that incurred millions in costs dealing with the estimated 400,000 opioid-related deaths since 1996.
Holly oversees casework and serves as the client contact for more than 125 opioid lawsuits filed on behalf of government entities in more than 18 states including New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana and more. Coordinating with individual legislatures to ensure the settlements are accepted can be very complicated.
“It’s imperative that I have an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of the litigation because we have sophisticated clients who are attorneys themselves,” she said. “It’s my job to keep them updated and help move their cases forward.”
When she’s not working directly with her clients, she focuses on completing discovery, depositions and trial preparation for both State and federal MDL cases. Holly also serves as a member of the trial teams, running the exhibit list for all cases and ensuring case-specific expert evidence and documents are prepared and ready. These trials often overlap, requiring a massive amount of organization.
In October 2019, Holly was instrumental in helping secure a total recovery of $325 million for Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio in the first federal bellwether trial. The settlements avoided what would have been the first trial in the opioid MDL, with the remaining four defendants finalizing deals just hours before opening arguments were set to begin.
In November 2021, she helped secure a historic jury verdict holding pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic in Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio. It was the first jury verdict in an opioid case nationwide.
Also in 2021, Holly spent three months in West Virginia, the state with the highest overdose and death rates in the country. West Virginia refused to settle with distributors and instead went to trial. Holly ran all exhibits on-site until she was required on-site for the New York State trial and then continued to run exhibits for West Virginia remotely while also running exhibits for New York. This included collecting all county-specific documents, ensuring experts had the appropriate documents, and generally supplying the trial team with everything necessary to argue the case.
Holly played an integral part on the trial team that successfully litigated the nation’s first opioid case to be heard before a state jury and secured a liability verdict against the remaining defendants.
The trial began in June 2021 and lasted 7 months. It is believed to be the longest jury trial in New York history and included more than 800 exhibits, of which Holly helped oversee in her role as a key member of the trial team.
Leading up to the New York trial’s opening arguments, several original defendants, including Johnson & Johnson and the pharmacies CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Wal-Mart, were severed from the trial. During the course of the trial, the team recovered more than $1.7 billion in settlements against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Key results included:
These settlements provided recoveries for Suffolk and Nassau counties, the state of New York and numerous other New York counties the firm represents. The trial concluded in December 2021 with a plaintiffs’ verdict against opioid manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiaries and the distributor Anda. Although based in Alton, Illinois, Holly spent all 7 months in New York for the trial.
“I love what I do. Especially with the opioid litigation, I know I’m helping people,” Holly said. “This is an epidemic, and people are overdosing every day. That drives you to get people the help they need.”
As part of the fourth bellwether case in the federal prescription opioid litigation, Holly helped secure $350 million in settlements for the city of San Francisco:
Holly also served as a member of the trial team for all bellwether trials for the DePuy Pinnacle MDL. Her work helped secure jury verdicts totaling more than $1.75 billion. She prepped witnesses, including plaintiffs and experts, and prepared exhibits and demonstratives. She also served as the coordinator between the courtroom and trial team’s war room, ensuring team lead Jayne Conroy had everything she needed during trial.
Holly earned her J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law in Dayton, Ohio, where she graduated with honors. She also received a Pro Bono Commitment to Community award for her work helping Hurricane Katrina victims get needed relief from the U.S. government. In addition, Holly holds a B.A. in political science from Purdue University.
“I take pride in what I do,” Holly said. “Working diligently on a case and building lasting relationships with my clients are what make my job fulfilling.”