Recognized for her invaluable contributions in the landmark six-month New York State opioid trial, which concluded at the end of 2021, Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Ellyn Hurd was recently featured in the cover story of her alma mater’s publication: Boston College Law School Magazine. Ellyn earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School in 2001.
As discussed in the article, “A Tough Pill to Swallow,” Ellyn proved invaluable to the trial’s successful outcome, which resulted in holding Teva Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiaries liable for their roles in the opioid crisis. The trial also included a number of settlements from other companies involved in the opioid supply chain from marketing to manufacturing to distribution.
As a critical member of Simmons Hanly Conroy’s trial team representing Suffolk County, Ellyn was responsible for gathering, cataloging and making intelligible a massive assortment of evidence against the defending companies. To order the unwieldy volume of evidence, Ellyn created a shared digital organization system dedicated strictly for the New York State opioid trial.
Discussing the evidence and the case, Ellyn said:
“The fact that it’s so huge and involves so many documents and, initially, so many defendants, it’s like working on a lot of cases within this big case. [The opioid] case has had everything that I can imagine. Allegations of discovery violations, perjury accusations, bankruptcy, Covid. It seems like we faced a new challenge every day.”
In total, Ellyn worked on the Suffolk case for twenty-seven months. Despite interruptions sparked by COVID-19 pandemic, Ellyn and her team persevered. Originally scheduled to begin in March 2020, the trial start date was ultimately pushed back to June 2021.
“Nothing about the trial prep stopped,” Ellyn said, commenting on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had to adapt almost immediately to remote everything. We ended up taking or finishing depositions over Zoom, having to agree on new protocols to get testimony. For me, it was a lot of pretrial management.”
Ellyn’s older sister, Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Jayne Conroy served as lead trial attorney for Suffolk County in the case.
About Ellyn, Jayne told BC Law School Magazine:
“Without Ellyn’s organizational brilliance and patience in assembling and editing the massive exhibit pool, and making it split-second accessible, it would be impossible to marshal the most appropriate evidence for depositions and trial. [Her central role in the] selection of thousands of possible exhibits, with thumbnail analyses of how best to use or deflect each one, was the core tool for the trial teams in presenting the case.”
Ever humble, Ellyn attributed her ability to successfully remember and manage thousands of pieces of evidence by saying, “[It’s] just the way my brain is wired.”
“While I may not be in front of the judge every day, I know that my contribution to the team, even if it’s from the back of the courtroom, is crucial. My intense focus on procedural matters and evidentiary issues allows the team as a whole to make critical strategic decisions quickly and accurately. Preparing day after day for direct and cross examinations that avoid, to the extent possible, evidentiary pitfalls, is grueling but satisfying. I love what I do, knowing that my contribution is valued. It’s also gratifying to know that we are fighting the good fight.”
Across her 20-year legal career, Ellyn has devoted roughly eight years to critical behind-the-scenes work in two landmark cases — the juried New York State opioid case and the 6-year-long St. Louis v. Perlitz et al. sexual abuse case.
In the latter, Ellyn’s work helped secure a $60 million settlement on behalf of sexual abuse victims in Haiti. “That I’ve been able to focus my practice on these types of cases is a testament to my firm’s commitment to standing up for clients who have no voice,” Ellyn said.
Jayne was effusive in her praise of Ellyn’s long hours and meticulous work in gathering, organizing and maintaining detailed records of all information related to the New York opioid case, saying:
“Ellyn devised and now implements a living and growing compilation of legally curated evidence available to all trial teams in the multidistrict litigation relating to opioids, and several other state court cases. I can’t imagine any lawyer introduced to Ellyn’s evidence masterpiece would ever litigate [an opioid] case without it.”
The trial, which originally included more than 30 companies as defendants, was the longest juried trial in New York State history.
To read the full article, “A Tough Pill to Swallow,” in the Boston College Law School Magazine visit the publication’s online version here.