Jacksonville Moves Forward With Plan To Sue Opioid Manufacturers

Sep 24, 2017
Originally published on September 22, 2017 3:03 pm

The City of Jacksonville is moving forward with plans to launch a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the city’s worsening opioid addiction crisis.

A new bill filed in directs the city’s Office of General Counsel to investigate claims against the companies and select an outside law firm to represent the River City in court.

In August City Councilman Bill Gulliford organized a presentation to his colleagues by the Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd Law Firm, who’s representing Delray Beach in a similar suit.

Firm representatives laid out a list of options for city leaders pursuing legal action, saying Jacksonville could argue manufacturers engaged in deceptive marketing and that they violated the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act by overselling opioids to doctors and minimizing the threat of addiction.

“We have innocent people dying every day. These are people and that’s what really irritates me about the pharmaceuticals. They had to know. It’s well documented. They did know that this was addictive and yet they sold it to the medical profession as not being addictive,” he said.

Health information company Castlight Health ranks Jacksonville No. 24 among U.S. cities for the percentage of opioid prescriptions that are abused and the Duval Health Department says the city is among the worst in Florida for babies born addicted to opiate drugs.

Jacksonville averages two deaths a day due to opioid overdoses and the medical examiner says there isn’t enough space to store the bodies of souls lost to the drug.

Gulliford said contrary to initial reports, it won’t be possible for cities to enter in class action lawsuits similar to ones mounted against big tobacco companies because there are too many variables between localities.

Nonetheless, Gulliford said the city will pursue the toughest case possible.

“I’m pretty angry at that group of people and if we can get $100 million out of them, God bless us. I hope we do,” he said.

Gulliford said he’d like to use whatever money the city wins in a possible legal action to fund more prevention and treatment efforts.

Meanwhile, he’s working with Sheriff Mike Williams on combatting crime like gift card fraud that is largely responsible for funding many opioid addicts’ opioid habits.

Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

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