Opioid Lawsuits: Trial Begins as West VA Seeks to Hold Drug Makers
On April 4, 2002, the State of West Virginia began its trial against three major opioid manufacturers—Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Teva Pharmaceuticals, and AbbVie Inc.—over the drug-makers’ role in fueling the state’s opioid crisis.
In early 2022, 46 U.S. states settled with opioid drug-makers and wholesalers in a landmark $26 billion settlement, but West Virginia declined to join the agreement. Instead, the state argued that its serious impacts from the opioid epidemic were unaccounted for in the previous settlement and is now bringing its case against the opioid makers independently.
West Virginia, Other U.S. States Faced Serious Losses During Opioid Epidemic
Many states across the U.S. have been grappling with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, including West Virginia. In 2020, West Virginia saw a 45% rise in drug-overdose deaths, a reality compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mountain State Spotlight) According to the American Journal of Public Health, the increase in West Virginia was the highest increase in drug overdose deaths in the nation for that year.
Communities have faced not only a significant loss of life through the opioid crisis—more than 500,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019—but also a massive drain on city and state budgets.
The Cost of the Opioid Crisis
As a result of the opioid epidemic, studies estimate that state governments have collectively:
- Lost billions of dollars in state income tax revenue due to lost productivity (Medical Care)
- Spent more than $72.4 billion in Medicaid costs on health care related to opioid addiction (American Journal of Managed Care)
In addition, city and county governments have borne the burden of maintaining a range of community services related to opioid addiction, treatment, and recovery. These include providing ambulance services, investigating overdoses, and even handling mortuary services.
Any settlements received in West Virginia’s lawsuit against J&J and other drugmakers will be used to fund opioid addiction and recovery services. In anticipation of a future settlement, West Virginia’s State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently announced that any lawsuit funds will be distributed to local governments through a program called West Virginia First. (Metro News)
Lawsuits Are Being Brought Against Opioid Makers, Distributors, and Others That Fueled the Crisis
Lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and others responsible for exacerbating the crisis are being brought based on several primary claims:
- Drug-makers misrepresented the safety of opioids
- These companies knew the risk of opioid addiction, but still aggressively marketed them to doctors
- Distributors and others were aware of exceptionally high volumes of opioid drug shipments arriving in certain American communities, yet they failed to take action to prevent potential drug abuse
While state and local governments have brought the majority of recent opioid-related lawsuits, individuals who meet certain criteria may be able to bring similar claims and seek damages for their losses.
Get Help From a Lawyer
If you were harmed or lost a loved one due to a drug overdose or use of an FDA-approved prescription opioid, you may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost income, wrongful death, and more.