Attorneys: Recent opioid rulings justify local lawsuits

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW)- Earlier this week a judge found Johnson & Johnson responsible for the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and ordered the company to pay the state more than half a billion dollars in damages.

Thousands of similar lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson and other pharmaceutical companies are underway including the state of South Carolina and Horry County.

The judge ruled Johnson and Johnson created a public nusiance in Oklahoma, and while these cases are separate South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson claims other opioid distributors did the same.

“The ruling from Oklahoma is an exclamation point to the question do we need legal action, and the answer is yes with an exclamation point on the end,” said Attorney General of South Carolina, Alan Wilson.

Wilson filed a lawsuit earlier this month against three major opioid distributors; Cardinal Health, Mckesson, and AmerisourceBergen, which is scheduled to go to trial in March of 2020.

Wilson claims the companies violated the Unfair Trade Practices act and were public nuisances by failing to report suspicious orders and review new customers.

“They violated state and federal laws to get try to get a larger share of the opioid market at the expense of consumers who have become addicted when they other wise would not have,” said Wilson.

In a separate case, Horry County filed a lawsuit in May against major drug manufacturers and companies including Johnson and Johnson and Purdue Pharma.

The suit claims the county has seen a substantiated increase in opioid overdoses, addictions, and negative effects around the community.

“All of these drug companies knew they were so highly addictive and yet they failed and covered up how bad they were to the doctors and to the health care professionals who give it out,” said attorney Marc Bern.

Marc Bern is one attorney representing Horry County in this case. He said they are seeking damages for costs the county has already incurred plus an abuse abatement program that would cover addiction related expenses.

Bern represents 40 separate county lawsuits filed in South Carolina state court.

He said right now there’s no exact dollar amount for damages, but for all the counties his firm represents it will be in the billions.

The state and Horry County could see another lump sum of money as both are suing Purdue Pharma who is in talks to pay out between five and six billion dollars to settle thousands of lawsuits.

Bern said the Oklahoma ruling was just the tip of the iceberg.

“Oklahoma will set off a chain of events that will hopefully put something together to begin to truly tackle and hopefully end this horrendous pandemic,”said Bern.

Horry County’s lawsuit also claims the defendants created a public nuisance and violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. The case could go to trial in 18 months.

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