West Virginia counties considering legal action against drug companies

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More counties in West Virginia may be coming close to taking further legal action against drug companies in an effort to hold them responsible for the opioid epidemic.

Cabell is the latest county to consider getting involved in a lawsuit.

Greene Ketchum lawyers made their case to the Cabell County Commission Thursday, saying they'll go after drug companies for dumping tens of millions of doses of oxycodone in the state, while reaping huge profits by contributing to a public nuisance.

"The privilege of making that much money comes with the obligation to make sure there's not abuses in the system," attorney Paul Farrell Jr. said, "and the safety net failed. They dumped all these pills in our backyard. It's a public nuisance, and now what they're required to do is clean up the mess they created."

This is separate from the state's consumer protection case, which has helped the state collect nearly $50 million from drug companies.

The law firm says that case addressed criminal acts, while theirs would address the economic impact created by the epidemic.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry says he's all for it.

"I think if we can recoup and get some of the money and offset our losses, it's a help to us because as it stands right now, the general public is paying for everyone's overdose," Merry said.

Lawyers also presented the lawsuit option Tuesday to Mercer County.

The McDowell County Commission was the first in West Virginia to file such a lawsuit.

Farrell is predicting in the next several weeks that Mingo, Boone, Logan and Wayne counties will be taking legal action.

He says they anticipate all 55 counties in the state to eventually be involved in the litigation.

The Cabell County Commission decided to table the issue so they can hear pitches from other law firms before taking action.

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