Sensing Opportunity, Lawyers Descend On Counties Hard-Hit By Opioid Crisis

Attorneys are offering to sue pharmaceutical companies that make opioids, aiming to recoup money spent by local governments to deal with addiction.

By Michael Marks & Laura RiceMarch 14, 2018 11:36 am,

President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The Texas Department of State Health Services says more than 1,100 Texans died from opioids in 2016. Cities and counties across the state have had to increase services to meet the demand.

Now local leaders are being overwhelmed by another side of the opioid crisis. Lawyers are knocking on their doors with promises to sue pharmaceutical companies for money that would pay local governments back for the strain on resources caused by opioids.

Marissa Evans reported this story for the Texas Tribune, where she’s the health and human services policy reporter. She says lawyers have created sophisticated packets of information for potential governmental clients, complete with PowerPoint slides, charts and statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“All of these things mean your community is impacted, and you deserve to potentially get compensated for your costs – jail diversion, addiction programs and services, lost productivity costs and all those ER visits,” Evans says, summing up the attorneys’ pitch.

Lawyers are emphasizing the need for local governments to act quickly to increase the likelihood that they would win a lawsuit. Evans says that a large number of suits filed against pharmaceutical companies for opioid harm have already been consolidated into one case that is currently being heard by a judge in Ohio. Evans says that judge wants to resolve the cases quickly.

Evans says a lot of lawyers are also seeking individual plaintiffs who have lost loved-ones to opioids.

“‘Did you lose a loved-one to the opioid crisis?'” Evans says, paraphrasing an ad.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.