Taking the Opioid Crisis to Court

SCRANTON — Lackawanna County officials announced Friday they will attempt to quantify the cost of dealing with the area’s opioid crisis — and they plan to sue the big drug companies to recoup the money.

County commissioners said that they will be fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic from inside the county courthouse. In the next few weeks, attorneys will be filing a lawsuit seeking damages from the companies the commissioners believe contributed to the epidemic.

At a news conference outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, commissioners and a team of lawyers from New York City announced that they soon will be filing a lawsuit against 14 pharmaceutical companies.

“We intend to show that these pharmaceutical companies knew from the very beginning when they started marketing these opioid drugs that they were addictive and they were unnecessary for what they were prescribed to do,” said Joe Cappelli, Marc J. Bern & Partners.

Commissioners say the lawsuit won’t cost the taxpayers anything up front. The lawyers will take 25 percent of whatever money the county may win.

First, a forensic audit will be done to determine how much heroin and opioid-related cases have cost the county.

“Honestly, I don’t know you put a number on it, it will be huge. From corrections, from prosecutions through our office, to law enforcement on the street, health care, insurance, it is going to be a huge number,” said Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon.

It’s long been thought that the over-prescription of opioid pain medications leads to a heroin addiction, something that’s claimed more than 200 lives in Lackawanna County since 2014.

One of those is Sammi Henehan of Scranton. Her parents hope the lawsuit changes the way people get their hands on opiates.

“In order to get those doctors to get more regulated, you have to go after the guy who’s supplying it. It’s kind of like a drug dealer,” Marty Henehan said.

A lawsuit will take a long time but the people hit hardest by the heroin and opioid epidemic believe it’s worth it.

“I really believe that it will, yes, they see that we’re not going to tolerate it anymore and we’ll go to any length to stop it,” Stacy Henehan said.

The lawsuit that will be filed in Lackawanna County is similar to a few dozen filed by cities and towns all over the U.S. They are all reminiscent of lawsuits filed against big tobacco in the 1990s.

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Original article WNEP-TV ABC16