West Virginia Record

Monday, January 27, 2020

Four drug distributor lawsuits removed to federal court

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 5, 2017


CHARLESTON – Four lawsuits against drug distributors for allegedly contributing to the opiate epidemic have been removed to federal court.

The lawsuits were filed by Mayor Charles Sparks, on behalf of the town of Kermit; Mayor Vivian Livinggood, on behalf of the town of Gilbert; Mayor Reba Honaker, on behalf of the city of Welch; and the Lincoln County Commission.

Each lawsuit names the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy; McKesson Corporation; AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; and Cardinal Health 110. Miami-Luken is also named in Gilbert, Lincoln and Kermit’s lawsuits. Dr. Harold Anthony Cofer Jr. is named in Welch’s. Chip RX and George W. Chapman III is named in Lincoln’s. Cameron Justice was also named in Kermit’s.

The lawsuits all allege the defendants contributed to the opiate epidemic across the state by flooding pharmacies with Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. The BOP allegedly failed to timely investigate and resolve suspicious order reports.

The defendants played a significant role in creating what amounts to a public nuisance by flooding the area with excessive amounts of dangerous and addictive medications, according to the suits. The plaintiffs claim the defendants’ actions are a serious breach of the public trust, which has resulted in drug abuse, misuse, overdose deaths and untold expenses for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs claim as distributors of inherently dangerous products like prescription narcotics, the defendants bore a significant duty to ensure that the drugs did not end up in the wrong hands and failed to do so.

In exchange for promising to honor their obligations, each of the defendant distributors was licensed and/or registered by the Board of Pharmacy and ultimately received compensation in the form of millions of dollars per year for shipping volumes of drugs well beyond what a reasonably company would expect, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim they were there to enforce codes, clean up streets and neighborhoods and repair and/or replace damaged and destroyed property.

In the notices of removal, the defendants claim complete diversity exists between the plaintiffs and defendants.

The plaintiffs are represented by H. Truman Chafin and Letitia N. Chafin of The Chafin Law Firm; Mark E. Troy of Troy Law Firm; Harry F. Bell Jr. of the Bell Law Firm; and John Yanchunis, Patrick Barthle and James Young of Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.

The defendants are represented by Brian A. Glasser and Steven R. Ruby of Bailey & Glasser; Enu Mainigi, F. Lane Heard and Steven M. Pyser of Williams & Connolly; Thomas Hurney Jr. and Laurie K. Miller of Jackson Kelly; A.L. Emch and Adam J. Schwendeman of Jackson Kelly; Meredith S. Auten and Eric W. Sitarchuk of Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Russell D. Jessee and Devon J. Stewart of Steptoe & Johnson; and Geoffrey Hobart and Matthew Benov of Covington & Burling.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:17-cv-03369, 2:17-cv-03372, 2:17-cv-03366, 1:17-cv-03364

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Organizations in this Story

Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLPSteptoe and Johnson LLPThe Bell Law Firm, PLLCMorgan & Morgan PASteptoe & Johnson PLLCJackson Kelly PLLCBailey & Glasser LLPU.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Charleston DivisionTroy Law FirmCovington & Burling