Placer County sues opioid manufacturers, distributors for opioid epidemic

Published on May 10, 2018

Placer County has filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors for creating the opioid epidemic in Placer County, joining a consortium of 30 California counties.

The lawsuit calls for drug companies to end practices that have led to the epidemic and seeks legal damages for the taxpayer money spent by Placer County to respond to the crisis.

All 30 counties - including Sacramento, Nevada, El Dorado, Sutter and Yuba - are filing suit in federal court. The cases are expected to be transferred into multi-district litigation in Ohio, where over 500 public entities have filed similar suits.

The complaint alleges that many of the nation’s largest drug manufacturers misinformed doctors about the addictiveness and efficacy of opioids. Defendants named in the lawsuit include Purdue Pharma; Teva Ltd.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson); Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Allergan PLC; and Mallinckrodt.

The lawsuit also names the nation’s largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corp. – which failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act; as well as other large national distributors and retailers.

Between 2008 and 2016, 93 Placer County residents died of opioid overdoses, with 14 in 2016. That year, the rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits due to opioids were higher than the statewide average. The county will continue working to quantify its expenses related to addressing the crisis as part of part of the lawsuit but expects them to be well in excess of $1 million.

“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and it is a serious concern in Placer County,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Jim Holmes. “Taking action to stop the companies responsible for it is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our residents and for our taxpayers.”

At its April 10 meeting, the county Board of Supervisors approved retaining the law firm of Baron & Budd to pursue the litigation on the county’s behalf. Placer joins more than 300 cities and counties throughout the United States partnering with Baron & Budd and its legal team to file lawsuits related to the opioid crisis.

Read Placer County’s legal complaint (PDF).