By: David Yates
HOUSTON – Joining a nationwide trend, Texas municipals have begun suing the makers of opioids in recent months, alleging drug manufactures knew of the dangers but placed profits above the public good.
And while no one is really debating that opioid addiction isn’t real or a problem, at least one group is questioning how enriching trial lawyers will cure the epidemic.
“Whether it is lawsuits against opioid manufacturers or lawsuits against oil companies, public policy should be crafted in the statehouse, not the courthouse,” said Lucy Nashed, communications director for Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
“Enriching a few plaintiff law firms through a multi-billion dollar tobacco-like settlement does nothing to address the challenges that communities face with opioid addiction.”
Travis County was one the latest Texas municipals to join the fray, with officials announcing a lawsuit earlier this month and a week after settlement talks commenced for more than 250 opioid lawsuits filed in federal court.
From all corners of the state, counties such as Dallas, McLennan, El Paso and Hidalgo have filed opioid suits.
Several East Texas counties, including Bowie, Titus and Upshur, have also brought suits over their own.
Upshur County was the first in Texas to file an opioid lawsuit, naming more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies as defendants in its Sept. 29 petition.
In Southeast Texas, Harris County filed an opioid lawsuit in state court back in December, naming Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan as defendants, to name just a few.
“The widespread use of opioid drugs is the direct result of a concreted industry scheme that has evolved over the past two decades,” the county’s petition states.
“In short, these defendants expanded the market for opioids beyond that for which it was originally intended and created a disaster of gargantuan proportions, the likes of which has never been seen in the pharmaceutical industry.”
The suit alleges drug makers relied on “false science” from their own “product champions” and enlisted “complicit” healthcare providers to help market dangerous opioids to Harris County consumers.
To aid in the pursuit of the litigation, Harris County enlisted The Gallagher Law Firm in Houston, which also represents Hidalgo County and claims to represent numerous other “cities, counties and municipals” in the effort to recover money spent to treat the opioid epidemic.
And apparently, there is no shortage of Texas trial lawyers willing to lend their services.
The Record has reported on several opioid lawsuits being handled by the Baron & Budd law firm in Dallas, which represents municipals across the nation.
Famed Houston attorney Mark Lanier, who boasts that his firm “is a pioneer in its involvement in numerous pharmaceutical liability litigations,” is helping to direct both the Dallas County and Tarrant County opioid litigation.
And last but not least is Jeffrey Simon, a partner with Simon Greenstone Panatier and Bartlett, who claims his Dallas law firm represents more than 40 counties, more than any other in Texas.