West Virginia Record

Friday, January 24, 2020

Three more state lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies for opioid epidemic

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 29, 2018

General court 09

CHARLESTON – Three more lawsuits have been filed against various pharmaceutical companies for the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

The lawsuits were filed in Clay and Webster Circuit Courts by the Clay County Commission, Webster County Commission and Mayor Don E. McCourt, on behalf of the Town of Addison, also known as Webster Springs.

“Within the last 20 years, a scourge infected this country in the form of a public health epidemic caused by widespread addiction to opioids like Oxycontin and Percocet, as well as generic forms of oxycodone and hydrocodone,” the complaints state.

The opioid epidemic continues to mushroom, despite widespread media attention and national government response.

The plaintiffs claim the misuse, abuse and overdose of prescription pain pills has and continues to destroy lives, ruin state and local economies and forever alter the welfare of the plaintiffs’ citizens.

The defendants know of the dangerously addictive qualities and high rates of loss and misappropriation of their drugs, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants played significant roles in creating what amounts to a public nuisance, by flooding the counties and town with excessive amounts of dangerous and addictive medications.

“Defendants’ actions are a serious breach of the public trust which has resulted in drug abuse, misuse and overdose deaths and untold expenses for [the] plaintiff[s],” the complaints state.

The defendants descended upon Appalachia for the sole purpose of profiting off of the prescription drug-fueled feeding frenzy, according to the suits.

As of 2013, Webster County has a population of 8,881, Addison has a population of 745 and Clay County has a population of 9,204.

From 2007 to 2012, the defendants distributed a combined 2,080,000 doses of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone to Clay County pharmacies; 2,589,200 doses to the town of Addison — which equates to more than 2,812 doses per resident; and 2,544,400 doses to Webster County — which equates to 230 doses per county resident.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by H. Truman Chaif 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 D. Young of Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the defendants from various counties and cities across West Virginia, and many of those already have been included in a federal Multi District Litigation case based in Cleveland, Ohio, before District Judge Dan Polster.

The drug companies settled with the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office on similar accusations last year. That lawsuit, which was filed in 2012 in Boone Circuit Court, settled for a little more than $20 million.

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Organizations in this Story

Webster Circuit CourtClay Circuit Court