Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Mark Chalos Talks to Governing About America's Lethal Opioid Crisis

Mark Chalos Talks to Governing About America’s Lethal Opioid Crisis

Over 100 States and Cities Are Now Suing Drug Companies Over Pandemic Opioid Deaths and Addictions Nationwide

Governing has published a new report on the wide proliferation of lawsuits filed by cities and states against prescription drugmakers for their role in the nation’s opioid epidemic. As the platform notes, new opioid harm lawsuits are being filed almost every week. Unlike most drug epidemics, the opioid scourge is driven largely by a legal industry — the prescription drug system. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 75 percent of people who enter treatment for a heroin addiction took their first opioid legally from a prescription.

Though states have tried numerous ways of dealing the problem, the unfortunate truth is that when addicted patients can’t get legal drugs, they quickly turn to illegal sources and often to even more dangerous opioid forms that include heroin and fentanyl. CDC estimates indicate at least 90 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses. As Lieff Cabraser partner Mark Chalos explained to Governing, there are economic costs that extend beyond the tragic loss of so many lives.

Attorney Mark Chalos

“It’s devastated county and municipal budgets,” notes Chalos. “There’s been a significant cost for law enforcement, first responders, for drug treatment, for lost productivity of government workers and for services like autopsies.” Chalos goes on to note that some clinics and hospitals in Tennessee can no longer afford to do autopsies for every suspected drug overdose, so in all likelihood the official tally of opioid-related deaths “is just the floor.”

At least 40 states have joined forces to subpoena information from four opioid manufacturers — Allergan, Endo, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen group, and Teva, with additional requests out to other manufacturers and opioid distributors. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the first state AG to sue a drugmaker for its role over opioids, may take things a serious step further. He told Governing, “If we get into those emails and executives are in the chain knowing what they’ve unleashed on the American public, I’m going to kick it over to a criminal lawsuit. I’ve been to too many [opioid-related] funerals.”

Most of the lawsuits seek money damages to help them get back millions lost to fighting the opioid devastation on a local level. And some of the suits are working to try to force opioid manufacturers to change their allegedly deceptive and incomplete sales and marketing to meaningfully highlight how dangerous and addictive the painkillers can be.

Governing points out the similarity between these new opioid harm cases and the successful cases from the 1990s against tobacco companies, where corporate action and inaction over decades led to a widespread public health crisis affecting tens of millions of Americans. Chalos notes that he is “optimistic that the industry will be held accountable,” though he wanrs that opioid manufacturers have enormous resources and can be expected to fight “tooth and nail.”

Read the full article on Governing’s site.

About Mark Chalos

The managing partner of Lieff Cabraser’s Nashville office, Mark Chalos represents individuals who have suffered catastrophic personal injuries and families whose loved ones died due to the negligence or misconduct of others. He has obtained millions of dollars in settlements for families who have been harmed by wrongful conduct. Through jury trials, Mr. Chalos has held wrong-doers accountable, including representing 32 school children who were videotaped undressing in their school locker room ($1.28 million jury verdict) and a young woman who suffered a severe brain injury in a car wreck (nearly $4 million jury verdict). He also obtained an $8 million arbitration award on behalf of a business client.

About Governing

Governing is the nation’s leading media platform covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders. Recognized as the most credible and authoritative voice in its field, Governing provides nonpartisan news, insight and analysis on such issues as public finance, transportation, economic development, health, energy, the environment and technology.