County files lawsuit against firms that make opioids

Posted April 1st, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Fauquier

OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and other defendants “have caused an opioid epidemic that has resulted in economic, social and emotional damage to tens of thousands of Americans throughout virtually every community in the United States,” the lawsuit alleges.

“It is hitting us hard — our fire and rescue and the sheriff’s office. Maybe this will send a message.”

In a lawsuit filed last week, Fauquier County seeks $100 million in damages from drug manufacturers and distributors because of their involvement in the opioid abuse epidemic.

Three law firms represent the county in the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma — which makes prescription painkiller OxyContin — and dozens of other defendants, including pharmacy benefit managers.

The “defendants have caused an opioid epidemic that has resulted in economic, social and emotional damage to tens of thousands of Americans throughout virtually every community in the United States,” alleges the lawsuit, filed March 27 in Fauquier County Circuit Court. “It is indiscriminate and ruthless.”

Cities, counties, states and Native American tribes nationwide have filed more than 1,600 similar lawsuits against big drug companies. Purdue last week agreed to a $270-million, out-of-court settlement with the state of Oklahoma in the first major litigation of the issue.

“We are pleased to represent Fauquier County as it seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the county has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis,” said the plaintiff’s lead lawyer Kevin H. Sharp, with the firm of Sanford Heisler Sharp. “Fauquier County’s citizens deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf.”

The law firms approached County Attorney Kevin Burke to determine whether Fauquier would consider legal action. After a closed session to discuss the potential litigation, the board of supervisors in February voted to join the effort.

If the county prevails, the three law firms would receive 25 percent of the award, plus costs, according to Mr. Burke.

The county would have no responsibility for the costs of litigation — with the possible exception of document production or administrative expenses, Mr. Burke said.

At first board of supervisors Chairman Chris Butler (Lee District) worried that litigation would result in higher prescription prices for Fauquier citizens, but the closed-door discussion with the lawyers convinced him that the county should sue.

The supervisors voted, 5-0, to file the suit.

“It is hitting us hard — our fire and rescue and the sheriff’s office,” Mr. Butler said. “Maybe this will send a message.”

Twenty people died last year of drug overdoses — most of the involving opioids — in Fauquier County. The county set a record with 22 drug-overdose deaths in 2016. The total fell to nine in 2017 before spiking again last year.

Joanne Cicala, whose Texas law firm also represents Fauquier, said: “The opioid epidemic is not accidental. It is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made crisis. And worse – the companies that did this were not just seeking to build market share – they knew they were creating addicts.

“And now their scheme is costing Fauquier County and communities like it dearly — in so many ways. It is fair for Fauquier County to respond by seeking to hold those responsible for the epidemic — those who continue to profit from it — accountable for its costs.”

Fauquier County v Purdue Pharmacy on Scribd

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