Mayor Greg Fischer has announced that Louisville has filed a federal lawsuit against three major opioid companies.
“We have a lost generation of people addicted to opiates, and many have now migrated to heroin,” Fischer said in a Monday press release. “Wholesale Distributors need to be held accountable for this epidemic by cleaning up the mess they’ve created through treatment for those struggling with addiction, educating our youth to understand the danger of opioid abuse, and keeping our communities safe.”
The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District court targets Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson – the three largest wholesale opioid distribution companies in the United States with combined annual revenues of $400 billion. The mayor said all three failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity.
“There is no question our taxpayers — all 760,000 Louisville citizens — are shouldering the financial responsiblity for the opioid crisis,” Fischer said in the release.
Along with the devastating lost of sons, fathers, mothers and daughters, there is a toll on hospitals, police, fire and other emergency services, strained from the volume of fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
Levin Papantonio, a law firm based in Penascola, Florida, is heading the lawsuit on behalf of Jefferson County. One of its attorneys, Peter Mougey, said the firm isn’t charging the city any upfront costs and only gets paid if they win. With a victory, the firm would recoup 30 percent plus expenses, he said.
Five other firms are assisting in the case.
The suit doesn’t specify the amount the city wants the companies to pay because the estimated costs associated with the opioid crisis is still being calculated.
Expect it to be up in the high nine figures, Mougey said.
They aren’t seeking a class-action status, but many of the firms litigating the cases have agreed to share information, Mougey said.
The first known suit of its kind was filed in West Virginia about six months ago, and others have since been filed in Ohio, he said.
Calls Monday seeking a response have not yet been returned by representatives of McKesson, headquartered in San Francisco; Cardinal Health, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio; and AmerisourceBergen, based in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania.
“Matt’s death left a hole that, for a parent, I don’t think can ever fully heal,” O’Connell said in a press release. “This lawsuit is a chance at some small piece of justice for my son Matt, and for the countless families who have been decimated by the opioid plague and the grip of addiction.”
Jefferson County saw the largest increase in fatal drug overdoses in 2016 as well as the highest body count of any county in Kentucky, according to a new study delving into the deadly mark of opioids across the commonwealth.
The county average one overdose death per day last year, with most of the deaths blamed on heroin or another opioid, O’Connell said.
Louisville saw a 36 percent increase in overdose deaths last year over 2015 (268 to 364) and led the state in fentanyl-related deaths with 182. Fatal overdoses have jumped 90 percent in the county since 2012.