Health Care and Wellness

Youngstown Joins Federal Suit Over Opioid Crisis

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city of Youngstown has joined a federal lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the opioid crisis here.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said the distribution of opioids into the city “caused and continues to cause the loss of life in Youngstown, with the attendant financial burden, including costs associated with law enforcement and public safety.

“The city of Youngstown is also seeking punitive damages, alleging that the pharmaceutical defendants acted with actual malice, wantonly, and oppressively in their quest to sell dangerous drugs to Youngstown residents,” Brown continued. “The city contends that the pharmaceutical defendants acted with a conscious disregard for rights and safety of its citizens in a manner that had great probability of causing substantial harm.”

Neither Brown nor city law director Jeff Limbian responded to requests for comment.

The announcement came a day after a district court judge in Oklahoma ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to the state for its role in the opioid crisis, which the pharmaceutical company says it will appeal. 

In Ohio, a federal case will begin in October to determine the pharmaceutical industry’s culpability in the opioid epidemic, which has resulted in more than 400,000 deaths since 2000, including roughly 47,000 deaths in both 2017 and 2018 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The case, filed by Cuyahoga and Summit counties in July, will be the first of nearly 2,000 – many consolidated under the Cuyahoga-Summit suit – of its kind heard at the federal level.

On Tuesday, The Columbus Dispatch reported that legislation has been drafted to allow the Ohio attorney general to take over lawsuits filed by municipalities. The proposed bill would allow the General Assembly to allocate 90% of damages collected to “address matters of statewide concern.” 

At least 20% of the money would be given back to the municipalities that filed the suits. The attorney general’s office, which worked on many of the suits filed by Ohio local governments, would receive 5% of collections. The legislation has yet to pick up any sponsors or be assigned a bill number.

UPDATE: OxyContin Maker, Government Attorneys in Settlement Talks

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.