Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal announced today that he has joined several other Louisiana Sheriffs in filing a lawsuit against drug companies which manufacture, distribute and fraudulently market opioids, leading to increased crime and delinquency throughout Washington Parish. At no cost to the taxpayers of Washington Parish, he has engaged the services of two legal firms with vast experience in managing such cases. On behalf of Sheriff Seal, the lawsuit has been filed by Laborde Earles, a leading Louisiana accident and personal injury law firm, and Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s leading law firms which has spearheaded similar lawsuits in other states across the country. Sheriff Seal’s lawsuit was filed October 5, 2017, in the 22nd Judicial Court.
In the complaint, Sheriff Seal and his fellow Sheriffs seek relief, including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars they spend each year to combat drug-related crimes and the societal economic burden of opioid abuse created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that fabricates the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.
The defendants in the lawsuit are: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Dr. Randall Brewer; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman and Dr. Lynn Webster.
The action announced today by the five parish sheriffs follow similar lawsuits filed by Laborde Earles on behalf of the Sheriffs of Avoyelles, Jefferson Davis, Rapides and Lafayette Parishes last month.
In a separate action, the Louisiana Department of Health has also sued the major pharmaceutical companies, alleging in their complaint, “Drug manufacturers undertook an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana with highly addictive and dangerous opioids in an effort to maximize profits above the health and well-being of their customers.”
“Rural Washington Parish is not immune to the devastation which has been wrought by the misuse of opioids throughout our great nation. For the past several years, we have been forced to devote too many of our meager resources to combat this menace,” said Randy Seal, Sheriff of Washington Parish. “My hope is that this litigation will be a giant step in compelling the drug manufacturers and distributors to be held accountable for the destruction of many lives and the untold burden which they have placed on law enforcement agencies through false misrepresentation of the dangers posed by opioids.”
“Opioid abuse and addiction has caused widespread tragedy and hardship across Calcasieu Parish and is straining the resources of our office,” said Tony Mancuso, Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish.
“The opioid epidemic has touched every corner of this parish and every part of this state,” said Jay Russell, Sheriff of Ouachita Parish. “I am proud to join with my fellow sheriffs to try to do something about this crisis for the people of Ouachita Parish.”
Sam Craft, Sheriff of Vernon Parish, added, “Vernon Parish has been affected just like every other parish in this state and like counties across the nation, so when we saw the opportunity to stand with our neighboring law enforcement agencies and try to do something about this mess, we readily agreed to do so.”
“The pharmaceutical companies named in this suit ignored the devastating impact that their drugs were having on individuals and families across the nation, including right here at home,” said Derrick “Digger” Earles, Partner at Laborde Earles. “It’s time they were held accountable and pay for the damage they caused.”
“We applaud our clients for standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough’ and trying to do something to stop the opioid epidemic sweeping our nation,” said David Laborde, Partner at Laborde Earles. “These sheriffs join a growing list of public entities around the country that have concluded that it’s time to hold the drug companies accountable for their fraudulent actions.”
“With today’s filings, that is now nine Louisiana Parish Sheriffs taking action against the drug companies that have deceived the public about opioids’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use,” said Paul Hanly, Shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy, co-counsel in the case. “We are proud to stand with Derrick and David of Laborde Earles as they seek justice for these Parishes and their many residents.”
According to the lawsuits, state data shows that opioid-related deaths in Louisiana have nearly doubled from 155 in 2012, to 305 in 2016. Louisiana is one of eight states that has more opioid prescriptions than it has residents. In 2013, Louisiana ranked first in opioid prescribing according to the Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The state was found to have the sixth highest prescription-per-capita rate at 1.03 pain killer prescriptions written per Louisiana resident in 2015.
According to the CDC, Washington Parish and Vernon Parish had rates of usage higher than the national average in 2015. Washington Parish’s usage rate was between 677 and 958 milligram equivalents (“MME”) per person in 2015, compared to 640 MME per person in 2015 nationally.
The lawsuits allege the defendants aggressively sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and clients that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other “educational” materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a new and phony “consensus” supporting the long-term use of opioids. In the Louisiana Department of Health lawsuit officials wrote, “Drug manufacturers undertook an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana with highly addictive and dangerous opioids in an effort to maximize profits above the health and well-being of their customer.”
About Laborde Earles
Laborde Earles Law Firm is a Louisiana-based law firm with offices in Lafayette, Alexandria, and Marksville. The lawyers at Laborde Earles Law Firm are an award-winning team with credentials that set us apart from other law offices in the community. We use our expertise and experience to navigate our clients through each step of their case. We invest time, effort, and money into our clients’ cases to maximize the results and monetary compensation that can be obtained. The Laborde Earles Law Firm has lawyers with 100 years of experience combined and the manpower to take on any large corporation. David Laborde is rated as a distinguished lawyer by his peers and one who upholds very high ethical standards. David is recognized as a top trial lawyer and is a Life Member of the Multi–Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Derrick “Digger” Earles was voted a rising star and a top “40 under 40” lawyer in Louisiana for four consecutive years in Louisiana. He is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. The firm has a broad range of mass torts experience including post-Deepwater Horizon spill litigation, overtime suits, antitrust suits, and products liability torts. For more information, please go to www.onmyside.com.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental, sexual abuse litigation and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz, Toyota Unintended Acceleration and DePuy Pinnacle. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.