Clearfield County Commissioners on Tuesday approved hiring a Pittsburgh law firm to file a lawsuit against eight pharmaceutical companies to recover costs the county has incurred related to opioid abuse.
Commissioners John Sobel, Mark McCracken and Tony Scotto showed a united front by voting unanimously to retain D’Amico Law Offices, LLC of Pittsburgh at no cost to the county. The firm was hired on a contingency basis.
Since 2010, the county’s expenses have soared in dealing with the opioid epidemic, Sobel said. At a recent Clearfield County Jail Board meeting, it was revealed that the jail alone is about $300,000 over budget in 2018 alone due to maximum inmate population, paying out-of-county expenses to house overflow inmates, as well as medical costs to treat addicted prisoners.
“The opioid crisis has become a plague to Clearfield County,” Sobel said. “It’s very expensive and costs are growing — and taxpayers are shouldering that burden.”
Sobel pointed out that addiction has increased county costs across the board — from the District Attorney’s Office who has to prosecute the cases, the Public Defender’s Office that defends the accused, the Probation Office that follows the addicted after incarceration, as well as other departments.
“Many of these individuals are broken — and we have to medically support them,” Sobel said. “It is tearing families apart and the county is raising other people’s children and grandchildren through Children and Youth Services.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Sobel said.
Commissioners said similar lawsuits are being filed against pharmaceutical companies who are producing the opioids seeking damages for increased costs stemming from the medications.
In Pennsylvania, the counties of Philadelphia, Allegheny, Erie, Beaver, Westmoreland and Delaware are among those that have already filed similar lawsuits.
The lawsuit is against the companies who were responsible for allegedly misrepresenting the safety and efficacy of the medications to medical professionals.
Sobel pointed out several times during the meeting that the county does not hold any medical professional, facility or pharmacy responsible for the situation — the lawsuit is directed toward the pharmaceutical companies only.
McCracken said commissioners are not expecting large amounts of money to suddenly replenish the county’s coffers as a result of the lawsuit.
“This is not going to be a windfall,” McCracken said. “This is going to recoup our costs as a result of this crisis. We are just looking for reasonable reimbursement of these costs.”
“We want to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable,” Scotto said. “They are going right for the consumers.”
Clearfield County Attorney Theron Noble has been retained as local counsel by D’Amico.