Podcast: NTL member Rhon Jones talks opioid litigation

National Trial Lawyers member Rhon Jones has teamed up with Alabama’s attorney general on opioid litigation, filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers on behalf of state and local governments. In this edition of Ringler Radio from the Legal Talk Network, Jones talks to host Larry Cohen about the latest developments in opioid litigation, and why it’s so important to end this escalating crisis. 

Jones’ firm, Beasley Allen, has filed similar lawsuits on behalf of a number of Alabama municipalities and counties, including Montgomery County. The firm also is representing the State of Alabama in its opioid lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals.

“This crisis did not have to happen. Companies like Purdue have been more concerned about their economic bottom lines than the people who were prescribed their dangerously addictive drugs,” said Jones. “Their greed and disregard for human life have cost the taxpayers across the nation over $500 billion. Local communities, like the capital city (Montgomery), have been ground zero in this crisis, stretching every dollar to combat the ills of opioid addiction. These companies think they can walk away from the mess they created, so it is an honor to stand with those in our state’s capital and other local municipalities and counties in Alabama and around the country to help them hold the real culprits accountable.”

NTL member files two more opioid lawsuits

Beasley Allen has filed its fourth and fifth lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors on behalf of an Alabama city or county government. The complaints, filed on behalf of Limestone County, Alabama, and the city of Anniston, alleges the marketing of these drugs contributed to the creation of the opioid epidemic, a public health and safety crisis. Responding to the opioid crisis has required Barbour County to sustain economic damages and to continue to bear a significant financial burden. Limestone County is represented by Beasley Allen lawyers Rhon E. Jones, who is head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section and a member of The National Trial Lawyers, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Ryan Kral, along with Athens, Alabama lawyer John M. Plunk.

The City of Anniston is represented by Beasley Allen lawyers Rhon E. Jones, who is head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Ryan Kral, along with Bruce Downey of The Downey Law Firm in Anniston.

In December, Beasley Allen filed two similar lawsuits on behalf of the City of Greenville, Alabama and Houston County, Alabama. In February, Beasley Allen filed additional lawsuits on behalf of Barbour County, Alabama, and Sumner County, Tennessee. The firm also is representing the State of Alabama in its opioid lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals.

“Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. We are seeing a huge cost in human lives, and a burdensome financial toll on communities struggling to battle the problem,” Jones said. “Providing city and county resources to battle the opioid crisis causes local governments to take a huge financial hit, draining funds away from other critical government services, and creating an ongoing financial burden.”

“The conduct of these drug makers and distributors is some of the most egregious I’ve ever seen,” said Plunk, who has practiced law in Athens for 40 years, representing victims of fraud, physical injuries and other similar claims. “Communities like ours are struggling to meet the challenges of caring for our citizens, who are the victims of the opioid epidemic and need services ranging from law enforcement assistance to medical care.”

“This crisis was created by the pharmaceutical industry, which clearly put its interests in profit ahead of concerns for public safety,” Downey said. “They misled doctors and the public about the serious risks associated with these drugs, especially the risk of addiction. As a result, communities are left struggling to cope with the consequences.”

Economic damages resulting from the opioid epidemic include costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; costs for providing counseling and rehabilitation services; costs for treating infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; public safety and law enforcement expenses; and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.

Four Alabama cities rank in the Top 15 in the nation with the highest rates of opioid abuse – Anniston, Gadsden, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. Nationally, opioids are responsible for killing more than 183,000 people since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015 alone, 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses – more than guns, car crashes and HIV/AIDS ever killed in one year in the U.S.

Defendants include Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, LTD.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Noramco, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLS; Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Actavis, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis, LLC; Actavis Pharm a, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc.; Mallinckrodt plc; Mallinckrodt LLC; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation.

The complaint is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.