Some Florida counties seek restitution amid opioid crisis

Counties file lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has been investigating pharmaceutical companies for their part in causing the opioid crisis since September. While the state hasn’t filed any lawsuits against the companies, some Florida counties are taking it upon themselves to seek restitution.

More Florida counties are expected to file suit in the next few months. Miami-Dade and Escambia counties have already expressed some interest.

More than 10 states have filed lawsuits against Big Pharma, blaming the companies for playing a part in causing the national opioid crisis.

Florida has yet to take any legal action against the companies, but it is part of a coalition of 41 states investigating the companies.

“You know, we put in a lot of investigation ourselves before we go out and file these lawsuits, because we have the ability to gather a lot of documents doing it the way we're doing it,” Bondi said.

Tired of waiting for the state to take legal action, three counties have decided to sue on their own.

Broward County is the latest, joining more than 100 jurisdictions around the country who have filed suit against pharmaceutical companies.

“This is probably our No. 1 public safety and public health crisis right now, and this is something that, you know, needs to be addressed," said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.

For the lawsuits to prevail, counties have to prove pharmaceutical companies marketed opioids as safe products, despite knowledge of research suggesting the opposite. It’s similar to the state’s case against Big Tobacco in the 1990s, which won the state $13 billion, some of which funded anti-smoking efforts. 

Addiction and mental health advocates hope any possible settlements from pharmaceutical companies can go toward addiction services like Central Receiving Facilities.

“They often are the folks on the front line who see the results of addiction and who will actually bring the folks into treatment for their first go around," said Melanie Brown-Woofter, with Florida Council for Community Mental Health.

The attorney general’s office said if drug companies fail to cooperate with the investigation, Florida is ready to file suit in a moment’s notice.