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CT Mayors Band Together In Attempt To Sue Opioid Makers

CT Mayors Band Together In Attempt To Sue Opioid Makers

Hartford Business Journal, March 8, 2019

By Joe Cooper
 
A bipartisan group of Connecticut mayors is banding together to co-chair a new coalition that will lobby for a state law that allows cities and towns to sue opioid makers for financial damages.
 

Mayors on the Connecticut Opioid Strategy Taskforce (COST) include Erin Stewart (New Britain), William Dickinson Jr. (Wallingford), Toni Harp (New Haven) and Michael Passero (New London).

The mayors said they would push for legislation they are calling the Opioid Accountability Act, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, had not been filed at the Capitol.

They are hoping lawmakers will help remedy a January legal ruling by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who dismissed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma filed by 37 Connecticut municipalities, finding that the local governments had only suffered "indirect harm" and lacked legal standing to sue the drugmaker.

In Connecticut, dozens of towns and cities have filed lawsuits seeking compensation for damages due to overprescribing and abuse of opioids, which caused 1,017 overdose deaths in Connecticut last year, data show.   

Town are simply asking... back to top

But Connecticut is the nation's only state being denied the ability to pursue damages in court from drug makers that caused the problem, the group said.

The Opioid Accountability Act, the mayors said, would give them the opportunity to prove in court that municipalities have been financially burdened fighting the opioid crisis. The coalition argues the legislation would not upend or overturn any existing state law.

"Connecticut municipalities are simply asking, as are the hundreds of other municipalities across the country that have filed suit, that the drug companies and pharmaceutical executives who made billions in profits, while leaving devastated communities in their wake, be held accountable," Stewart said in a statement.

The mayoral fight comes days after George Jepsen, Connecticut's former attorney general, and now partner at Hartford law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed urging municipalities to drop their opioid lawsuits.

As attorney general, Jepsen led a multistate investigation looking at the role opioid manufacturers and distributors played in the nationwide epidemic. The lawsuit has not yet been filed, but the attorneys general are hoping it results in billions of dollars for states to implement new prevention and treatment programs.

Jepsen said "to resolve this logjam, attorneys general should structure state-centric deals under which localities can benefit if they drop their lawsuits."

Several municipalities have filed opioid lawsuits, including Hartford, East Hartford, Berlin, Bristol, Southington and Wallingford, among others.