Opioid Lawsuits

Many victims of America's opioid epidemic are filing lawsuits against physicians, pharmacists, and drug wholesalers. They claim that these doctors and entities caused or contributed to their addictions to prescription painkillers.

Opioid Lawsuit

(Updated Jan. 5, 2018)

Since 1999, the number of prescription opioids sold in America has almost quadrupled. Over the same period, prescription opioid deaths have more than quadrupled.

West Virginia is the site of dozens of lawsuits filed against physicians, pharmacists, and drug wholesalers who may have caused or contributed to opioid addictions.

West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation—35 per every 100,000 people. It is the heart of coal country and has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country (after Alaska). This is a recipe for pain.

It’s not surprising, then, that West Virginia is also the site of dozens of lawsuits filed against physicians, pharmacists, and drug wholesalers. These lawsuits claim that doctors, drug companies, and “pill mills” exploited patients, got them hooked on pills, and cost individuals and the state millions of dollars.

Lawsuits Allege Unjust Enrichment

A separate lawsuit filed by McDowell County, West Virginia with our attorneys aims to hold three drug wholesalers accountable: McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. These three companies supplied more than half of West Virginia’s opioids.

The complaint alleges negligence, state code violations, and unjust enrichment” on the part of defendants. It claims that, in addition to spreading “addiction and destruction,” these companies drained McDowell County’s finances, stating:

Defendants have caused and will continue to cause McDowell County to expand substantial sums of public funds to deal with the significant consequences of the opioid epidemic that was fueled by defendants’ illegal, reckless and malicious actions in flooding the state with highly addictive prescription medications without regard for the adverse consequences to McDowell County or its residents.

Attorney John Yanchunis said, “McDowell County was once a thriving community, now laid to waste by drug addictions which have destroyed lives, broken up families and caused a dramatic increase in crime, addiction-related social and health issues, overdose and even death.”

McDowell County’s drug overdose fatality rate is nearly three times higher than West Virginia’s, which is highest in the nation.

McDowell County’s fatality rate from drug overdoses is nearly three times higher than West Virginia’s.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, over a six-year period West Virginia was flooded with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills. The McDowell complaint states that the defendants were responsible for the majority of these pills—more than 423 million.

The lawsuit alleges that from 2007 to 2012, the defendants supplied pills for 1.8 million people, earning revenues of more than $17 billion.

Lawsuits Claim Physicians and Pharmacies Caused Addictions

Meanwhile, dozens of groundbreaking lawsuits filed in West Virginia allege that “a veritable rogue’s gallery of pill-pushing doctors and pharmacies” caused or contributed to the plaintiffs’ (or their loved ones’) addictions to controlled substances.

Some plaintiffs are filing lawsuits because they had loved ones who overdosed on opioids and died.

The complaints claim that by prescribing and supplying these powerfully addictive drugs, the physicians and pharmacies in question caused the plaintiffs to abuse the opioids and even engage in criminal activity to obtain them. In many cases, plaintiffs lost jobs or wages as a result of their addictions.

Some plaintiffs are filing lawsuits because they had loved ones who overdosed on opioids and died.

Three pharmacies (Tug Valley Pharmacy, Strosnider Drug Store, and B&K Pharmacies at Mountain Medical Center) and four Mountain Medical Center doctors (Katherine Hoover, William Ryckman, Diane Shafer, and Victorino Teleron) are listed as defendants in those 29 lawsuits.

Painkillers Include Oxycodone, Hydrocodone

Opioid narcotics are drugs that bind to opioid receptors to block or reduce feelings of pain. They are often prescribed for patients who have just had surgery or experienced physical trauma such as a car accident or serious sports injury.

The most commonly prescribed opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (brand names: OxyContin, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

Though doctors no longer prescribe it, heroin produces a similar effect as the above drugs. When the government finally cracked down on opioid prescriptions, many people who had become addicted to them switched over to heroin to achieve a similar feeling—often with deadly results.

Opioid Lawsuits Are Groundbreaking

There is no exact precedent for these opioid lawsuits, but that doesn’t make them any less legitimate. A defense attorney recently challenged Wilbert Hatcher’s lawsuit, asking the West Virginia Supreme Court if plaintiffs who admittedly had engaged in criminal behavior to obtain and use drugs had the right to sue. The Court upheld the lawsuit, with Chief Justice Margaret Workman writing in the majority opinion:

This court finds that our system of comparative negligence offers the most legally sound and well-reasoned approach to dealing with a plaintiff who has engaged in immoral or illegal conduct.

Furthermore, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has endorsed the lawsuit, saying prescription painkillers are handed out in his home state “like M&Ms.”

Opioid Lawsuit Compensation

Our lawsuit lists the following damages on behalf of McDowell County:

  • Increased expenses of drug treatment programs
  • Medical care/hospitalizations
  • Emergency medical transportation
  • Costs of law enforcement response/investigations
  • Costs of prosecutions and incarcerations
  • Costs of repair for property damage

Meanwhile, Wilbert Hatcher and the 28 other plaintiffs in that lawsuit seek relief for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses, including money (often thousands of dollars) spent on the prescription drugs in question
  • Costs for drug treatment programs
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses (if they lost a loved one to overdose)
  • Any other relief the Court deems fair and just


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