The city of Boonville announced recently that it is joining several municipalities in a class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the "opioid crisis."
Boonville, along with several other municipalities, are being represented by the law firm Cohen & Malad, LLP. to help them recover funds "to address the overwhelming financial burden that the opioid crisis has placed" on them.
"Boonville has chosen to take this important legal action against these opioid drug makers and distributors because of the widespread negative effects on our community caused by the misconduct of the manufacturers and distributors," said Mayor Charlie Wyatt.
The manufacturer defendants will be Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt PLC, Allergan PLC and Watson Pharmaceuticals.
"The lawsuit will allege that these manufacturers deceptively marketed the appropriate uses, risks and safety of opioids," said Jamie Lira with Cohen & Malad, LLP.
The opioid distributor defendants will be AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corporation.
Lira said the lawsuit will allege that "these distributors failed in their duty to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids that flooded the city of Boonville."
"Opioid manufacturers and distributors must be held accountable for their roles in creating this epidemic," said Lynn Toops of Cohen & Malad, LLP. "This lawsuit is just one method that the city of Boonville can use to respond to the needs of its residents and provide resources to set them on the path to recovery."
Wyatt said that he has met with other mayors across the state of Indiana who have opioid problems in their communities as well.
"It's a big issue -- drugs," he said, "I'm ashamed to say, here in Boonville, but you know it happens here in our little quaint state of Indiana and our southwest Indiana corner."
The mayor said there is no single type of person that becomes addicted to opioids.
"They're your grandmother, they're your brother, they're, you know, the kid down the street," he said. "You'll have surgery or something like that, well most people don't want to use all of their medication. So a lot of times, they got some stashed up in their medicine cabinet. So the next thing you know, the DEA is visiting and they tear through those cabinets."
Wyatt said he likens the hopeful outcome of the lawsuit to all of the advertising that goes into discouraging people from smoking tobacco.
"They put a lot of warnings on, cessesions and everything like that with trying to get you off cigarettes," he said. "Well I'm hoping maybe something, and I'm dreaming, but maybe something will happen so we can treat our people that are having issues with that."
Wyatt said the lawsuit will not cost the city of Boonville anything.
"No recovery, no fee," he said.
Wyatt said although he initially had said no to joining the lawsuit as first, he realized that the expense of opioids to the city was enough to have Boonville participate.
"In dealing with the police chief and the fire chief, you know they keep track of how many runs they run for drugs," he said. "It's a big expense."
Wyatt said he didn't have the numbers for how many runs they make.
"I just know we can get them," he said. "We're not going to do that until the day they knock on the door and say, 'hey, we gotta have it.' "
Wyatt said he also doesn't know how much opioid runs cost the city but that it is "absolutely huge."
Wyatt said as soon as the press release from Cohen & Malad, LLP was sent out notifying people of Boonville's decision to join the lawsuit, people starting to call city hall complaining.
"We've gotten so many calls: 'the city can't afford this, we can't take on a big cause, big drug dealer, pharmaceutical plant,' " Wyatt said "and I said, 'we don't have anything invested other than that we're trying to do something for our citizens out here to help our people.' "
But Wyatt said the main reason he decided to join the lawsuit after being contacted by Cohen & Malad, LLP several times was that the city may possibly get reimbursed for all of the runs the police and fire department has made on opioid calls and reiterated that the lawsuit will cost the city nothing.
"But hopefully we can help some people, hopefully we can help the city with our reimbursement and everything like that," Wyatt said. "We finally came to the thought, 'why not join in on this thing because it could be huge."