Marc J. Bern & Partners Retained by Lackawanna County to File Civil Action Regarding National Opioid Epidemic

We are honored to announce that we have been retained by Lackawanna County Pennsylvania and have filed a Civil Action on its behalf to combat the opioid crisis that has taken hold in its community and across the nation. Marc J Bern and Partners LLP expects to announce additional municipal retentions in the opioid crisis in the very near future. We are also representing select individual cases as well.

OPIOID EPIDEMICSeptember 27, 2017 | In 2015, the United States broke a new record – but not the kind it would like to promote. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, more than any year on record. Though various government offices, educational facilities, nonprofits and other awareness groups have made valiant efforts to combat this epidemic, 91 still die in the U.S. every day from abuse and misuse.

The CDC acknowledges the following substances as opioids:

  • Heroin.
  • Synthetic opioids, such as Fentanyl.
  • Prescription opioids, such as Benzodiazepines, which are central nervous system depressants used to sedate, induce sleep, prevent seizures, and relieve anxiety.

Opioid use has historically been characterized by a drug dealer in a dark alley or a shabby apartment, which is still an accurate depiction. However, on a larger scale, opioid distribution can be traced to major pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers. Case-in-point: The amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone — have more than quadrupled since 1999.

Supplementing the horrifying number of fatalities is opioid misuse’s economic burden. The CDC estimates that the annual economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. is $78.5 billion; this includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. All these appalling statistics were officially acknowledged by the federal government in August of 2017 when the opioid crisis was designated a national emergency.

The people of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania understood the need for this declaration – they’ve witnessed its destruction much too frequently.

The recent passing of a 24-year-old Scrantonian woman due to an overdose was the latest in a long line of preventable deaths and the breaking point for county officials, who turned to our firm to achieve justice. Founding partner Marc J. Bern and senior partner Joseph Cappelli recently filed suit on behalf of the county against 14 defendants, which include drug manufacturing and distribution companies like Johnson & Johnson and Teva, among others, and several individual physicians. The county claims the defendants were aware of the addictive nature of certain medications but failed to warn the prescribers and patients. The suit is one of the first civil actions to be filed since the emergency was declared.

“We are honored to represent Lackawanna County in what is sure to be precedent-setting litigation. We’re reacting to a national epidemic on a local scale, so we know a lot of eyes will be on us and we are prepared for what will likely be a long legal battle,” said Mr. Bern. “For years, Lackawanna County officials have taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their citizens and to combat the companies’ deceptive marketing – but they cannot be everywhere all the time. And with each prescription opioid-related incident, the county incurs deep emotional and financial costs. Filing this important lawsuit is the first step in correcting this injustice.”

It’s the firm’s hope that it can spark the change among multinational corporations, who Mr. Cappelli said have placed profits over people.

“These companies have exacted a toll on society that may take years to eradicate,” said Mr. Cappelli. “Thousands of lives are continually at stake. We hope our work will prevent more tragedies and possibly inspire other affected parties to stand up to drug makers and hold them accountable.”

Consequently, Marc J. Bern & Partners filed the suit with the Court Of Common Pleas in Lackawanna County on Sept. 25. Read the official press release here.


To review a potential case for yourself, a friend or family member, please request a free consultation and claim evaluation.