ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County has taken a significant step towards filing a lawsuit against manufacturers of prescription opioid painkillers by hiring the San Francisco-based law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP as outside legal counsel to conduct the suit, County Executive Ike Leggett announced last Wednesday.
“Every day brings fresh evidence of the very real damage that the Opioid crisis in wreaking on individuals and communities throughout our great nation,” Leggett said in prepared remarks. “I wish I could stand here and tell you that Montgomery County is immune to this epidemic. Unfortunately I cannot do that.”
The announcement is the latest step Leggett has taken towards filing the civil action against prescription opioid manufacturers, which Leggett accused of violating marketing laws by downplaying the addictive nature of their products.
Not only will Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd help represent the County in its forthcoming action – which Robbins Geller attorney Aelish Baig said the County will file in early January -- but it will also help the County wrap up its own investigation into prescription opioid manufactures.
“Just what the lawsuit will look like is currently unfolding, but we will take the action, if necessary, to ensure we stop this very addictive process,” Leggett said.
County Attorney Marc Hansen said Robbins Geller agreed to represent Montgomery County on a contingency fee, meaning if the County is not awarded any money in the lawsuit, the County will not have to pay the law firm.
Baig specifically named Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Cardinal Health and Janssen Pharmaceuticals as opioid manufactures and distributers that will likely be named in the complaint. Baig said opioid manufactures and distributors have failed to report “suspicious sales” and have conducted unlawful marketing practices, which downplay the addictive nature of their drugs.
“We anticipate filing a very comprehensive complaint against potentially eight or nine manufactures and distributers,” Baig said. “We have done a fair amount of that investigation already. We are just completing that investigation now and once it’s completed and, you know, be prepared to file.”
Hansen said the County has spent a million dealing with the opioid crisis with an increased impact on the County’s police and fire departments as well as self-insurance fund, health department and County jail.
“All of these have been impacted by the Opioid Crisis,” Hansen said.
While Leggett said it is important for the County to recoup lost revenue fighting the opioid crisis, the main goal of the lawsuit will be to make opioid manufactures stop their marketing for the drugs.
“We want to change the behavior, because that is what’s getting people addicted,” Leggett said.
Montgomery County will be one of the latest jurisdictions to file suit against opioid manufactures and distributors. States such as Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona and Illinois have filed similar lawsuit against opioid manufactures.
In May, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a “state of emergency” in response to an opioid addiction crisis in the state. In the speech, Hogan announced the state would spend an additional $50 million over the next five years to combat the crisis through prevention and treatment.