Prescription Opioid Drugs Manufacturing, Marketing, Distribution and Sales Practices Litigation
The Opioid Epidemic Ravaging the U.S.
Prescription opioid drugs are estimated to kill upwards of 100 Americans per day — over 36,000 Americans per year. Health services providers pay billions of dollars each year both in payments for unnecessary and harmful prescriptions of the drugs themselves and the costs of treating the diseases and injuries they cause. Accidental drug overdose deaths, of which at least two-thirds are opioid overdoses, are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. The economic burden caused by opioid abuse in the United States is approximately $78.5 billion, including lost productivity and increased social services, health insurance costs, increased criminal justice presence and strain on judicial resources, and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation.
Opioid manufacturing and distributing companies systematically and repeatedly disregarded the health and safety of their customers and the public. Charged by law to monitor and report dangerous behavior, they failed to do so in favor of maximizing corporate profits and increasing their market share. Corporate greed and callous indifference to known, serious potential for human suffering have caused this public health crisis. Defendants helped unleash a healthcare crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in this country.
Florida and Tennessee City and County Representation
In late January 2018, Broward County, Florida and the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida announced that they will be represented by Lieff Cabraser as part of a five-firm team in litigation against pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors for their alleged roles in the devastating and ongoing opioid crisis. We have also been retained as counsel by the City of Coconut Creek, Florida. No cases have been filed yet. Similarly, Lieff Cabraser entered into formal agreement with Scott County, Tennessee to explore litigation against pharmaceutical companies and other parties over the pernicious opioid epidemic in Scott County.
Multidistrict Opiate Prescription Litigation, MDL 2804
On December 5, 2017, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation formally approved the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804. Assigned to Judge Daniel Polster of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the litigation relates to the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales practices of prescription opioid drugs by “Big Pharma” drug makers and distributors. On January 3, 2018, Judge Polster named Lieff Cabraser founding partner Elizabeth Cabraser to the 16-member Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the coordinated litigation.
Plaintiffs in the more than 100 lawsuits involved in the centralization are cities, counties and states that claim the makers of opioid pain medication overstated the drugs’ benefits and downplayed their risks while marketing them to doctors. The aggregated action includes suits against drug distributors, which many of the various governments say failed to monitor and report suspicious drug orders.
Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, and additional affiliated businesses and entities.
The actions variously allege that manufacturers of prescription opioid medications overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks of the use of their opioids and aggressively marketed (directly and through key opinion leaders) these drugs to physicians and/or that the distributors failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates. The coordinated actions involve common factual questions about the manufacturing and distributor defendants’ knowledge of and conduct regarding the alleged diversion of these prescription opiates, as well as the manufacturers’ alleged improper marketing of such drugs.
Lieff Cabraser represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 Health & Security Plan (“DC 37”) in the litigation. DC 37 is a non-profit health, self-funded, and welfare benefit plan covering public sector employees, retirees and their families. It is based in New York City, and is the City’s largest public employee union, covering approximately 125,000 active union members from 51 local unions as well as 50,000 retirees and their families—totaling over 300,000 lives. Members covered by DC 37’s benefit plan work in almost every agency in New York City including but not limited to the City’s police and fire departments, hospitals, schools, libraries, social service centers, water treatment facilities, and city colleges. DC 37’s case alleges the creation of a conspiracy and conduct of an illegal enterprise to expand the market for opioids, and seeks class action status for a class defined as:
Northern California Yurok Tribe Action
On March 13, 2018, Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel filed a complaint on behalf of the Yurok Tribe in rural Northern California alleging that a wide range of opiate-based drug manufacturers and distributors concealed important facts about the dangers of opioids and the costs to communities in violation of the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The Yurok Reservation, located in one of only a handful of places where the U.S. opioid crisis initially took root, occupies land in rural Northern California’s Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. Humboldt County, one of the first counties in the entire nation to see lawfully produced prescription painkillers diverted for clandestine purposes, has had crisis-level overdose rates for over a decade. You can read a copy of the Yurok Tribe’s complaint against opiate drug manufacturers and distributors.
Rutherford County, Tennessee Lawsuit
On February 26th, 2018, Lieff Cabraser filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rutherford County, Tennessee against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors to recover taxpayer money spent to combat the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the Rutherford County community. The complaint, filed in federal court in Tennessee, alleges that the named opiate drug manufacturers and distributors and their agents deliberately and repeatedly violated federal and state law by widely and falsely promoting highly addictive opioids as safe and necessary, all the while concealing the true risks of the drugs. Read a copy of the Rutherford County Complaint.
Nashville, Tennessee Action
On December 22, 2017, Lieff Cabraser filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee against opioid manufacturers seeking justice and restitution for Nashville’s ongoing battle against the opioid crisis that has killed over 200 residents in 2017 alone. The suit seeks the recovery of taxpayer money and resources spent to combat the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the Nashville community. Read a copy of the Nashville and Davidson County Complaint.
“Our city has been devastated by opioid addiction and all its related harms,” notes Lieff Cabraser partner Mark Chalos. “What we have seen in Nashville and throughout our region, is millions of pills being sold in communities where there aren’t millions of people. It is time the opioid manufacturers and distributors are held accountable for their wrongful conduct that has destroyed families and cost untold millions of taxpayer dollars in Nashville, across Tennessee, and throughout the U.S.”
The capitol of Tennessee, Nashville is the 24th largest city in the U.S. with a population of nearly 700,000. The city is a center for the music, healthcare, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home to numerous colleges and universities, including world-renowned Vanderbilt University (2014 NCAA Baseball Champions). Nashville’s legendary venues include country music’s Ryman Auditorium, The Grand Ole Opry House, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
In addition to money damages, the lawsuit seeks a court order against the named pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors prohibiting them from engaging in the unlawful conduct detailed across the complaint, including over-promotion and over-supply of opioids in and around Nashville, as well as the creation of an abatement fund for the purpose of righting the wrongs created by the Defendants and their opioid catastrophe.
Smith County, Nashville Action
On December 18, 2017, Lieff Cabraser filed a lawsuit against a similar set of defendant entities on behalf of Smith County, Tennessee. The lawsuit advances claims for racketeering, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, public nuisance, negligence, and unjust enrichment, and seeks all legal and equitable relief as allowed by law under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and Tennessee statutory and common law. The action seeks repayment of costs associated with the opioid epidemic in Smith County.
Located in Middle Tennessee, Smith County is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners: former United States Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., awarded for his efforts to curb the global climate change crisis; and former United States Secretary of State (1933-44) Cordell Hull, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his part in organizing the United Nations. Today, Smith County finds itself in an endless battle to protect all its residents, including its next generation of leaders and citizens, from the opioid epidemic that is taking a daily, deadly toll in Smith County, and in counties across the nation.
Paulina do Amaral Chairs HarrisMartin Conference on Opiates Litigation
On Friday, March 2nd, Lieff Cabraser partner Paulina do Amaral co-chaired HarrisMartin’s Opioid Litigation Conference in San Francisco. The all-day conference covered a wide variety of topics and issues relating to the national opioid litigation, including an overview of state and federal cases, journalist perspectives, MDL case updates, insurance and bankruptcy issues, and liability issues.
Contact Lieff Cabraser
Governmental entities and funds interested in learning more or speaking with Lieff Cabraser about representation can contact us at 1 800 541-7358 or by using the form below. We are not currently representing individuals injured by the ravages of the nationwide opioid epidemic.