HUNTINGTON — A Huntington attorney representing the Cabell County Commission in its lawsuit filed against drug companies accused of fueling the community’s drug epidemic met with commissioners Thursday ahead of filing an amended complaint in the case.
Paul T. Farrell Jr. attended the regularly scheduled commission meeting Thursday to update commissioners on the case and discuss potential issues that could arise as defendants weigh filing for bankruptcy before the commissioners entered an executive session with Farrell.
Farrell said he planned to file the amended complaint by the end of the day Thursday.
“We are not only on the batter’s deck,” he said. “But as of today, when we file the third amended complaint, we will be in the batter’s box.”
Although more than 1,800 lawsuits have been joined together in multi-district litigation being heard by federal judge Dan Polster, in Cleveland, Cabell County’s lawsuit was selected to be the second to go to trial, after Cuyahoga County, Ohio, whose trial is expected to occur in October.
Cabell County was the first local government to file a lawsuit in 2017 against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies. The lawsuits allege the groups breached their duty to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates coming into the area over the past several years — a duty the lawsuit claims companies had under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
The lawsuit alleges the companies sold more than 86 million doses of opioid pain medication in Cabell County between 2006 and 2014, while the county’s population was about 96,000.
Defendants named in the lawsuit include AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Cephalon, Janssen, Endo, Insys Therapeutics and Mallinckrodt.
Some of those defendants have recently filed for bankruptcy after being named in hundreds of similar lawsuits. Farrell addressed the bankruptcy when commissioners asked how it would affect obtaining money if the lawsuit is successful.
Farrell said there are a handful of drug companies currently teetering on filing for bankruptcy, including Purdue Pharma and Miami Luken. Insys Therapeutics filed bankruptcy Monday after its executives were found guilty by a federal jury in May of criminal racketeering.
Farrell told the commission he is not worried about the filings, and said his team has an attorney dedicated to following the bankruptcy proceedings and attending court hearings to protect the plaintiffs’ interests. As the bankruptcies happen, the group co-led by Farrell currently representing the plaintiffs in more than 1,800 cases filed nationwide will work to become creditors against the companies.
“I think all three of those companies have significant equity issues,” he said. “Fortunately for us, there are four or five Fortune 500 companies that remain. I don’t see us exhausting those resources.”