Mingo opioid pill-addiction lawsuit gains steam

Lawsuits filed by 29 Mingo County residents who allege local doctors and pharmacies fed their drug addictions are back on track.

Putnam County Circuit Judge Joe Reeder, who’s assigned to the cases, has given lawyers for both sides 90 days to reinterview people connected with the lawsuits’ allegations. Some of the eight lawsuits were filed as far back as 2010.

“I just want to get these cases moving,” Reeder said at a hearing last week.

The lawsuits had been on hiatus for two years, after the West Virginia Supreme Court issued a 3-2 ruling that kept the Mingo cases alive. The court ruled the Mingo residents had the right to sue doctors and pharmacies for contributing to their addictions, even though the addicts admitted to breaking the law and abusing drugs in previous years.

The Mingo residents — all former patients at Mountain Medical Center in Williamson — are suing Tug Valley Pharmacy, B&K Pharmacy and the now-shuttered Sav-Rite Pharmacy. Four doctors — Victor Teleron, William Ryckman, Katherine Hoover and Diane Shafter — also were sued.

The former Mountain Medical patients allege the doctors and pharmacies caused them to become addicted to pain pills such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

The Mingo residents and local pharmacists and doctors gave depositions five years ago.

“I suggest we get an update on their conditions for the purpose of choosing cases, what their status is, what has transpired since 2012,” said Mike Fisher, who’s representing two of the pharmacies being sued. “It will better able us to choose a couple of cases by both sides for full development.”

The judge scheduled a follow-up hearing for Nov. 9. A jury trial is expected next spring.

Former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury oversaw the cases until he was removed from the bench following a federal investigation. He pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in 2013 and was sentenced to 50 months in prison.

After Thornsbury’s removal, Senior Status Judge John Cummings oversaw the lawsuits. He retired, and Reeder was assigned the case.

After the Supreme Court issued a ruling that paved the way for the Mingo lawsuits to continue, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill last year that blocked similar cases in the future. The legislation did not affect complaints, such as Mingo County’s, filed before the law was enacted.

Reach Eric Eyre at

ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-4869 or follow

@ericeyre on Twitter.

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