Local governments join opioid litigation

PARKERSBURG — Four more entities have joined a lawsuit seeking the recovery of damages from the opioid epidemic, attorneys said on Tuesday.

Pleasants and Ritchie counties and the cities of St. Marys and Harrisville are parties to the lawsuit suing 34 manufacturers, distributors and individuals.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Pleasants County by the Mid-Ohio Valley Opioid Litigation Alliance, according to attorney Liz Ford of Clarksburg. The alliance is represented by Ford, Kevin Harris and Eric Holmes with the Law Offices of Harris and Holmes of Ripley, Attorney Robert White of Charleston, and attorneys Marc J. Bern and Joseph Cappelli with Marc J. Bern and Partners of New York City.

The alliance represents 13 counties and cities in the Mid-Ohio Valley: Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties and the cities of Elizabeth, Harrisville, Ravenswood, Ripley, Spencer, St. Marys and Williamstown.

The aim of the litigation ultimately is to return things to the way before the crisis, Harris said.

“Make this a better place to live,” he said.

The suit claims companies knew the effectiveness of opioids diminishes over time, requiring larger dosages that increase the risk of addiction and death.

“Despite this knowledge, in order to realize blockbuster profit, defendants created a false narrative of safety and efficacy of opioids for medical professionals and the public,” the alliance said. “This encouraged massive consumption of opioids for longer periods of time and for a wider range of problems, giving rise to the opioid epidemic.”

More than 800 people died from drug overdoses in West Virginia in 2015, the highest death rate in the country.

“The economic and personal toll to the state of West Virginia is devastating – in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars – which doesn’t include the lives destroyed, and families forever altered because of this pandemic,” the alliance said in a press release. “The attorneys expect damages to be in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in this case specifically.”

Earlier this year the cities of Vienna and Parkersburg and the Wood County Commission voted to participate in lawsuits seeking to recover damages from the crisis. Wood County chose to be represented through the alliance while Vienna and Parkersburg joined a separate suit filed in federal court.

Harris said the alliance preferred state courts so citizens in the injured communities will decide the case.

“One of the most culpable defendants is a local West Virginia company, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, that has profited to the millions of dollars from one of the deadliest opioids, fentanyl, as well as companies like Purdue Pharma, LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, and massive distributors like Cardinal Health, based across the river in Ohio,” the alliance said.

Original appeared in The Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Click here for original article.


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Originally published by The Parkerburg News & Sentinel on October 3, 2018. Click for original article.