At the first hearing in the multidistrict litigation over its alleged role in the opioid crisis, global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. launched an unusual opening salvo: More than half the lawsuits have already settled.

McKinsey, which reached a $573 million settlement earlier this year with all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories, raised the defense argument at a Zoom hearing Thursday before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California. If successful, the defense could result in “a significant winnowing” of the multidistrict litigation, with 32 of the 50 cases tossed, said McKinsey attorney Josh Cohen, of San Francisco’s Clarence Dyer & Cohen.