A new legal front is opening in the war against the nation’s opioid crisis as attorneys begin to pursue major corporations that distribute prescription painkillers. They are seeking billions of dollars in reimbursements for the devastation the drugs have caused in communities across the country.
Attorneys in West Virginia, which has the highest opioid overdose rate in the nation, filed lawsuits in federal court Thursday on behalf of two counties and targeting some of the nation’s largest drug distribution companies. A dozen attorneys general in hard-hit states are considering similar suits against many of the same companies.
“The purpose of these lawsuits is to make the economic cost of willfully violating the law so significant that we force the wholesalers to abide by the law,” said Paul Farrell Jr., who filed the lawsuits in West Virginia and plans to file lawsuits on behalf of five other counties in the state next week.
The suits are among the first of their kind in the country. They accuse the companies of creating a hazard to public health and safety by shipping inordinate quantities of opioids into the state in violation of a West Virginia law. The law was originally designed to permit the demolition of run-down buildings that posed a public nuisance and threatened the safety of a community.