WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County town of Kermit has joined the list West Virginia, a handful of counties and a few communities that have filed lawsuits against five drug companies it claims helped fuel an opioid epidemic within in the town and across the state
The suit, filed Jan. 31 in Mingo Circuit Court, names McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Miami-Luken and HD Smith Corporation as well as former Kermit clinic owner Cameron Justice as defendants. Mayor Charles Sparks, on behalf of the town of Kermit, is the plaintiff.
Justice is the former owner of the now-closed Justice Medical Clinic in Kermit. Justice was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison after pleading guilty to Medicare fraud and conspiring to misuse a federal registration number to distribute prescription painkillers.
Drug companies shipped almost nine million pain pills to the Sav-Rite Pharmacy in Kermit over a two-year period, according to federal data used in a Charleston Gazette-Mail report. Kermit has a population of less than 400 people. In six years, more than 12 million hydrocodone pills were shipped to Kermit. That number was reduced after Justice’s clinic closed.
Kermit’s lawsuit seeks to recover damages for the economic burden shouldered by the town. The complaint was filed by former state Sen. Truman Chafin and Letitia “Tish” Neese Chafin of The Chafin Law Firm in Williamson as well as Harry F. Bell Jr. of The Bell Law Firm in Charleston, Mark Troy of The Troy Law Firm in Charleston and John Yanchunis and James Young of Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group in Tampa, Fla.
“The good people of Kermit deserve justice for the ravages done to them by several multinational corporations for money,” Truman Chafin said. “Now, there is nothing wrong with having money, however, as the Bible says, the love of money, which is the calling card of these huge drug distributors, is the evil that has caused over three-million deadly opioid pills to be sent to this little town with only 400 residents.
“I am very pleased to be one of the lawyers on a team of great attorneys who will have the chance to fight those who have caused so much pain, suffering and death to this once beautiful and thriving town.”
“Justice must be done for the Town of Kermit and other towns and cities ravaged by drugs,” he said.
Bell said he wants the same results.
“This is a great legal team that will bring justice to the Town of Kermit and its citizens,” he said. “When Mark Troy and I looked at the team needed to take on these entities, we knew John Morgan and his folks were up to the task.
“They have an amazing track record and expertise as well as the benefit of unique resources such as former FBI agents, former state attorneys general and an army of seasoned trial lawyers. We expect more governmental entities will step forward to take on these wrongdoers, and our team stands ready.”
Yanchunis said the legal team expects more defendants will be added in the months to follow.
“Though small in size, Kermit was once a thriving community, now laid to waste by drug addictions which have destroyed lives, broken up families and caused a dramatic increase in crime, addiction-related social and health issues, overdose and even death,” He said. “The good people of Kermit need to see an end to these problems. It has caused the unnecessary expenditure of precious town resources at a time where tax dollars are limited and needed to pay for the basic needs of the residents.”
Earlier this month, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen settled lawsuits with the state for a total of $36 million. Also, several counties and cities have filed similar lawsuits or announced plans to file lawsuits soon. The firms other than the Chafin firm that filed the Kermit lawsuit filed a suit in December on behalf of McDowell County, which was the first filed by a county or town. The state filed a similar suit in December as well.
The town of Richwood recently hired Charleston attorney Rusty Webb to file a similar suit. He recently filed a similar suit on behalf of the City of Huntington.
The Kermit case has been assigned to Mingo Circuit Judge Mike Thompson.
Mingo Circuit Court case number 17-C-13