Selma, Dallas County to join opioid lawsuit

Published 6:25 pm Saturday, February 24, 2018

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

Both the city of Selma and Dallas County are expected to file lawsuits against a conglomeration of pharmacies that are accused of fueling Alabama’s opioid crisis. This comes after Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state, while multiple cities and counties have agreed to enter their own suits as well.

The suing parties believe that the state and their individual areas have been severely effected as a result of pharmacies playing fast and loose with the rules and allowing people easy access to opioids, which are highly addictive. A press release sent out by Beasley Allen, a law firm involved in many of the lawsuits, lists a few of the health and financial damages caused as a result of this perceived negligence.

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“Damages resulting from the opioid epidemic include costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatment for patients…including overdoses and deaths, public safety and law enforcement expenses and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation,” the press release says.

The major entity listed in the lawsuits is Purdue Pharma, L.P., who Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard calls the largest manufacturer in the state. The two law firms representing these cases are Beasley Allen out of Montgomery and Prince, Glover & Hayes out of Tuscaloosa.

Beasley Allen is representing at least four separate cases that have been brought against the pharmacies: Greenville, Houston County, Barbour County and the state’s own lawsuit. The Hayes firm will also represent the state.

According to Ballard, Selma will hire the services of Prince, Glover & Hayes, while Dallas County has yet to make a decision but is considering both firms.

Jana Garner, local attorney with Jana Russell Garner Law Offices, brought forth the case to Dallas County representing the Hayes firm. Woody Jones, with Gamble, Gamble, Calame & Jones, appeared with Beasley Allen to present their case as well.

Both the county and the city have made it clear that they believe this is something worthwhile, despite the county not yet hiring a firm.

“We have heard presentations from both firms. States and other localities have been talking about this lawsuit for a year or so now,” Ballard said.

“We need to figure out how much costs are from these opioids. We are doing this not only for money, but for the people. There are 1.2 prescriptions for every person in Alabama.”

While Selma, Dallas County and other parties throughout the state ready up for a legal battle that could allegedly take two years for the cases to be decided, both Ballard and county attorney John Kelly have said that most of the parties involved want the case to result in an early settlement.

According to Kelly, the lawsuits are not meant to act under the same parameters of a class-action lawsuit, because individual cities and counties are hiring their own choice of firms, usually Beasley Allen or Hayes.

However, if the states, counties and cities going after the pharmaceutical companies want an early settlement for their cases, they would likely need to go the route of multi-district litigation.

Kelly describes this as something that “tends to happen” when multiple parties want to see their case settled under the same roof. Under this scenario, one federal district judge would decide the case.

Kelly, who was aware of the opioid problem but not the extent of it, is on board with improving the health and well-being of Alabama residents dealing with this crisis.

“The motivating factor is that the county and city are losing lives. If we could stop manufactures from hurting the lives of so many, we could also help stop the addiction,” Kelly said.

“I was aware the problem was bad, but was skeptical. I have changed my mind. The problem is way worse than I ever realized.”

Other pharmaceutical companies listed in the lawsuits are Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc., among others.

It is not known the number of parties wishing to go for early settlement. According to Ballard, the law firms only receive payment if the lawsuit is successful.