Frederick County to sue drugmakers, distributors

Posted February 28th, 2020.

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By JOSH JANNEY The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Frederick County plans to join thousands of U.S. localities that are suing national pharmaceutical companies over America’s opioid epidemic.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday night to authorize filing litigation against the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of prescription opioids and other entities involved in the marketing of such products.

The lawsuit will seek to recover damages the county has incurred responding to the opioid crisis — particularly increased public safety and social services costs.

The law firm consortium of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, Kaufman Canoles LLP and Cicala Law Firm PLLC will represent the county. These firms are representing more than 60 localities in Virginia, including the City of Winchester, in litigation against opioid manufacturers.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Shawnee District Supervisor Gene Fisher, Stonewall District Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter and Opequon District Supervisor Bob Wells voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the litigation. Back Creek District Supervisor Shawn Graber voted against it, saying, “Using drugs and the things that go along with it is a personal decision. It is an unfortunate decision and I had a sister pass away from that decision, so it is personal for me. However, I do not believe that suing the drug companies and the distributors of these pharmaceutical medications is the correct way to go.”

More than 200 people have fatally overdosed in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 2012.

County Attorney Roderick Williams said no local funds will be spent on the lawsuit. The county will only pay fees to the law firms if the litigation successfully recovers damages. Williams told The Star that the firms will determine how much money the county will seek.

Earlier this month, Winchester filed a suit against 49 pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and retailers seeking $50 million in compensatory damages and $17.1 million in punitive damages. The city’s suit claims the companies put profits before people in creating the opioid epidemic.

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