West Virginia Record

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Amended complaint unsealed against opioid manufacturers, distributors

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By Kyla Asbury | Sep 19, 2019

CLEVELAND — An amended complaint was filed in opioid litigation by the city of Huntington and the Cabell County Commission this week in multidistrict litigation against opioid manufacturers.

The amended complaint was the third version of the complaint and was unsealed. It was filed on Sept. 16 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland before Federal Judge Dan A. Polster.

The complaint claims between 2006 and 2014, manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids flooded the state with 1.1 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, which amounted to 611 pain pills for every man, woman and child in the state.

"The City of Huntington and Cabell County are, by now, well-known for being situated at ground zero of the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation," the complaint states.

The complaint lays out allegations that the defendants’ conduct in promoting and facilitating opioid use and thereby causing addiction, abuse, overdose and death has had severe and far-reaching public health, social services and criminal justice consequences, including the fueling of addiction and overdose from illicit drugs such as heroin.

"Plaintiffs have borne these costs for the benefit of their community, as have other local governments," the complaint states. "These necessary and costly responses to the opioid crisis include those associated with handling of emergency responses to overdoses, providing addiction treatment, handling opioid-related investigations, arrests, adjudications, and incarceration, treating opioid-addicted newborns in neonatal intensive care units, burying the dead, and placing thousands of children in foster care placements."

The epidemic has led to a public health crisis with increasing numbers of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, according to the suit. There has also been a startling increase in infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The complaint argues that the defendants caused a public nuisance, were negligent, violated the West Virginia Controlled Substance Act, were unjustly enriched at the city and county's expense and violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

Huntington and Cabell County were some of the first who sued the manufacturers and distributors in what eventually became more than 2,000 lawsuits. They are the second set of lawsuits scheduled to go to trial before Polster.

The plaintiffs are represented by Charles R. "Rusty" Webb of The Webb Law Centre; Joseph F. Rice and Anne McGinness Kearse of Motley Rice; Paul T. Farrell Jr. and Bert Ketchum of Green, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel; Anthony J. Majestro of Powell & Majestro; Linda Singer of Motley Rice in Washington, D.C.; Russell W. Budd, J. Burton LeBlank IV and Christine C. Mansour, Roland K. Tellis and Mark P. Pifko of Baron & Budd; Peter J. Mougey, Troy Rafferty, Page A. Poerschke, Neil E. "Ned" McWilliams and Jeffrey Gaddy of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Michael J. Fuller Jr. and Amy Quezon of McHugh Fuller Law Group; and Michael A. Woelfel of Woelfel & Woelfel.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland Case number: 1:17-cv-02804

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Cleveland Division

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