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Could Jacksonville sue pharmaceutical companies over opioid epidemic?

National firm's attorneys say city has spent enough on crisis to warrant lawsuit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville has been fighting the opioid epidemic at the hospital, with emergency services and through law enforcement. And the city could fight back with a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that manufactured and distributed opioid medications.

Attorneys with a national firm said there are enough damages for the River City to consider suing.

Attorneys told Jacksonville’s City Council that pharmaceutical companies played a role in the opioid epidemic and they already have another Florida city on board to sue.

Councilman Bill Gulliford supports the idea of a lawsuit.

“I think that a lawsuit like that -- I still contend that they are a lot responsible for this happening,” Gulliford said. “We talk about oh now we are shifting more to buying heroin and fentanyl, but they started -- it's obvious in the statistics that we are hearing, 75 percent of the people that are addicted started off with prescription drugs. So are they responsible? You bet they are.”

During an hour-long presentation Thursday, two attorneys with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd said that Jacksonville is the 24th highest city in the country for opioid prescription abuse.

Attorneys Mark Dearman and Aelish Baig believe a lawsuit would help reimburse the city some of the money paid for drug overdoses and deaths.

Their law firm has successfully battled in court against Enron and Pfizer.

Now their focus is on cities impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Another Florida city has already agreed to file a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company.

Jacksonville's lawsuit discussion comes as overdose deaths in Northeast Florida have doubled, and Jacksonville is waiting for a pilot program that would help overdose victims recover and lead a drug-free life.

That program will cost $1.5 million and is expected to begin in months.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has gone to so many overdose calls that the fire department needs more funding for emergency medical supplies, substantial costs for fighting the opioid epidemic.

City officials said they have to decide if this is the right law firm to move forward with a lawsuit against big pharma.

Then the council would have to decide what the money would go toward if the city wins a settlement.


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