Virginia Beach joins fight against opioid distributors, manufacturers

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Beach is joining a growing list of local governments taking action against drug manufacturers and distributors for fueling the opioid crisis in their communities.

The City of Virginia Beach and Sheriff Kenneth Stolle filed a lawsuit in federal court September 10 against the various manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids that have caused or contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse in our community. The suit seeks to recover the City’s costs and financial impacts resulting from the opioid epidemic.

The costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement are considerable. In 2016 alone, Virginia Beach Police identified 263 opioid-related overdoses with 54 resulting in death. From Jan. 1, 2017 through July 5, 2018, the Virginia Beach Police cataloged an additional 261 overdoses, with 60 of those resulting in death and six more possibly related pending autopsy.

“This lawsuit is a long-needed action designed to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into our community,” said Mayor Louis Jones. “Ending this crisis is going to take a major collective effort. Part of that effort must include accountability for the for-profit companies that fueled this epidemic.”

Deputy City Attorney Christopher S. Boynton and Assistant City Attorney Joseph M. Kurt are representing the City and the Sheriff as local counsel, together with a national consortium of law firms including Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC and Greene Ketchum, LLP.  While the case will be filed initially in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the city anticipates it will be swept into the multi-district litigation that is moving forward in the Northern District of Ohio.

The City of Virginia Beach has filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies, and against the country’s three largest wholesale drugdistributors among others.  The suit alleges the manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.

“The addictive nature of prescription opioids are the reason Congress in 1970 designed a system to control the volume of opioid pills being distributed in this country.  It allowed only a select few wholesalers to gain the right to deliver opioids,” said Boynton. “In exchange, those companies agreed to do a very important job – halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate or illegal uses. But in recent years they failed to do that, and today Virginia Beach is among the communities that are paying the price.”