Mayor Thomas Koch announced today that the City intends to pursue civil litigation against the pharmaceutical industry for its role in creating and exacerbating the ongoing state and national opioid abuse crisis.
Koch has signed a no-fee contract with the Washington D.C.-based law firm, Motley Rice LLC, to pursue a lawsuit against the drug industry based on marketing and distribution of opiate-based prescription painkillers that he said deceptively downplayed the dangers of addiction and flooded the marketplace with drugs that start a chain reaction of addiction from pills to illegal narcotics such as heroin and fentanyl.
Quincy is the first major city in Massachusetts to begin individual legal proceedings against the companies responsible for manufacturing and distributing opioid painkillers. Motley Rice represents a number of other states and cities, including the City of Chicago, in similar actions across the country.
The primary goal of any action, Koch said, will be to change the behavior of an industry that has played an outsized role in the substance abuse crisis facing almost every American community.
“We have to be willing to fight this crisis on every front, and holding the drug industry accountable for its deceptive and dangerous practices is an important one,” said Koch. “This is another spoke in the wheel in our efforts to confront this epidemic together as community, joining enforcement; treatment and recovery; and educating our young people.”
The City will only pay Motley Rice based on a percentage of any award for damages received as part of litigation. While few, if any cities, in Massachusetts have taken the step Quincy has with this move, the state Attorney General’s office is investigating litigation on a separate track and a growing number of individual cities nationally are training their sites on the drug industry.
“I think we’re reaching a tipping point, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot of cities and towns in Massachusetts, which have been very specifically effected by this scourge, taking this kind of stand against the industry,” Koch said.
The City will provide Motley Rice with extensive details of its fight with opiate abuse over the last several years, including data on anti-overdose administration, ambulance and emergency responses for overdose victims, increased educational costs, emergency room visits and law enforcement costs to help determine the scale of resources dedicated to the problem in the City.
Koch said litigation targets will be “manufacturers of opioids, distributors, and any other entities or individuals who played a role in causing or spreading the crisis here.”
“The City of Quincy is prepared to do what is necessary to remedy and prevent further harm to its citizens as a result of the opioid epidemic,” said Motley Rice LLC co-founder Joe Rice. “Only by stepping up to battle, as the leaders in Quincy are doing, will communities be able to someday soon start to stem this crisis.”
Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. Koch said it was their government experience coupled with their litigation expertise that led to their selection.
The opioid litigation team working for Quincy is led by former Washington, D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer, who filed the first complaint in the current national wave of lawsuits on behalf of Santa Clara County, California. Other municipalities and states represented by Motley Rice include: Toms River Township, N.J., Anne Arundel, M.D., Albany County, NY, Summit County, Ohio, the State of Alaska, the State of Kentucky, the State of New Hampshire and the State of South Carolina.