It’s really not that surprising that Bossier Parish was the first parish in Louisiana to join the hundreds of governmental entities nationwide to file litigation against the manufacturers and major distributors of opioids. Bossier elected officials generally leave the schoolyard politics at home when they assemble and just go about good government without too much fuss.
The City of Shreveport has hired counsel for opioid litigation and Webster Parish has just followed suit. It is anticipated that the Caddo Commission will soon retain counsel.
Opioid addiction has become a national epidemic and it results in an estimated 150 deaths per day. In what could become the next “big tobacco” litigation, elected officials are reviewing the governmental costs of opioid addiction and treatment on taxpayers.
Opioid abuse has resulted in substantial increases in hospital visits for drug overdoses. Additionally, infants born to opioid users are often born addicted to these drugs.
Local courts have experienced large increases in criminal defendants charged with illegal opioid possession and/or addiction. Local jails have become more crowded with those arrested for opioid offenses as well as those sentenced to serve time for opioid-related offenses. And for those convicted but not jailed, the caseload of probation officers have also swollen with opioid cases.
The litigation seeks recovery for the additional costs to the government entities for medical care, counseling and rehab service, law enforcement and public safety and child care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disabilities or incapacitation.
The lawsuits are based on multiple legal theories. These include public nuisance laws; fraud, racketeering, and corruption; violations of federal and state laws on controlled substances.
Opioid manufacturers are accused of grossly overstating the benefits of chronic opioid therapy as well as fraudulently concealing the harms of opioids.
Both the manufacturers and the distributors of opioids are accused of failing to properly monitor and report suspicious orders of opioids (unusual size, frequency and abnormal patterns) as required by federal law and misrepresentation of compliance with these requirements.
The list of opioid drugs is lengthy and includes OxyContin, Dilaudid, Butrans, Actiq, Fentora, Percodan, and Percocet.
The number of cities, counties, and parishes that have filed suits is over 400, and climbing weekly. The suits are filed in local federal courts and then transferred to a district court in Ohio as part of multiple district litigation. This process will streamline discovery that will be common for all the suits. After the common discovery, the cases will be sent back to the court in which suit was filed.
These lawsuits are handled on a contingent fee basis which means any payment to the attorneys will be from the suit proceeds.