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  • Fighting the Opioid Epidemic – Unlawful Practices of Opioid Manufacturers & Distributors

Lisa M. Esser and the Sommers Schwartz Mass Tort Litigation Team are representing counties, cities, and townships across Michigan in federal lawsuits seeking damages from opioid manufacturers and distributors to help reduce the economic burden of the opioid crisis on Michigan municipalities.

The complaints, initially filed in Detroit and Grand Rapids federal court, allege that opioid manufacturers and distributors failed to report suspicious opioid orders, as well as engaging in deceptive marketing practices to expand opioid use, and thereby, their market share. According to the complaints, manufacturers and distributors have acted “without regard for the lives that would be trammeled in pursuit of profit.” Claims are asserted against Big Pharma manufacturers like Purdue Pharma (maker of OxyContin), Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson, and also key opioid distributors, such as McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.

The lawsuits set forth two primary claims on behalf of the Michigan municipalities: 1) manufacturers of prescription opioid drugs engaged in a massive false marketing campaign to drastically expand the market for such drugs from their use in end of life type settings to daily chronic pain relief, and 2) opioid manufacturers and distributors in the supply chain reaped enormous financial benefits by refusing to monitor and restrict the improper distribution of prescription opioids in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Damages and penalties are also being sought based on allegations of public nuisance, negligence, deceptive trade practices, and violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act.

Along with injunctive relief, the Michigan municipalities are seeking money wrongfully paid for opioids through government programs (including employee insurance), as well as the costs of:

  • Medical care and treatment for persons suffering from opioid addiction or disease.
  • Treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation services for opioid addicts.
  • Welfare/protective services for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related addiction or disease.
  • Law enforcement and public safety expenses relating to the opioid crisis, including EMS runs, Narcan administration, overpopulated jails, and medical care required for opioid addicts while incarcerated.
  • Treatment for infants born with opioid-related conditions.

The following Michigan townships, cities, and counties have thus far retained Sommers Schwartz to represent them as plaintiffs in the lawsuits:

  • Branch County
  • Canton Township
  • Clinton Township
  • Eaton County
  • Huron Township
  • Livonia
  • Muskegon County
  • Northville Township
  • City of Romulus
  • Van Buren Township
  • City of Wayne

Sommers Schwartz is part of a nationwide consortium of lawyers who are pursuing compensation from opioid manufacturers and distributors on behalf of local governments to gather the financial resources needed to fight the national opioid crisis.

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