The Derby Board of Aldermen Thursday voted to hire two law firms that are researching whether to file a class-action lawsuit against “big pharma” drug companies.
The lawsuit has not been filed, nor have the defendants been named. It is being formulated by Ventura Law, a firm based in Danbury, and Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, a law firm based in Tennessee.
The Ansonia Board of Aldermen has also voted to hire the firms.
The potential litigation is part of a growing trend in the U.S.: states and municipalities joining with lawyers to go after drug companies that produce and distribute opioid painkillers.
The existing lawsuits claim the drug companies did not do enough to inform the public about the potential harm of modern painkillers.
Drug companies have generally denied the accusations, pointing out they’ve spent millions to help people addicted to drugs.
Kelly Fitzpatrick, an attorney with Ventura Law, said pharmaceutical companies “over promoted” opioids to the medical community, advocating for the long-term use of powerful drugs that were really meant for palliative care
That is, provide comfort to people with serious, life-threatening illnesses — people who may be close to death.
Opioid distributors, Fitzpatrick said, failed to notify the federal DEA of “suspicious diversions” of products such as oxycodone to shady medical outfits.
Meanwhile, opioid overdoses have skyrocketed across the U.S., including Connecticut. Click here for data on the deaths.
“It’s becoming more and more evident that the deliberate actions of drug manufacturers and distributors have contributed substantially to the ongoing opioid crisis. The conduct at issue includes deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices that put profit over people,” John Marini, Ansonia’s corporation counsel, said in an email to The Valley Indy.
If the lawsuit moves forward and is successful, Derby and Ansonia could get a cut of any money awarded to communities damaged during the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S.
Derby and Ansonia taxpayers are not paying the lawyers. The lawyers would take 25 percent of any monetary award. The lawyers would also use settlement money for other costs and expenses related to the case.
Ventura Law attorneys will be conducting an investigation in an attempt to gauge specific damages caused by opioids in Ansonia and Derby.
That means the lawyers will probably be talking to Derby police and the Storm ambulance corps, said Andrew Baklik, Mayor Rich Dziekan’s chief of staff.
Baklik said data could be collected about how many children are born addicted to opioids, and whether those kids have learning problems once enrolled in Derby schools.
Fitzpatrick said attorneys are already working on the case, but it is not yet known when or where a lawsuit will be filed.
“We are working on it as we speak,” Fitzpatrick said.