NORTH ROYALTON – The city of North Royalton will be joining the class-action lawsuit several other area municipalities have filed against opioid manufacturers claiming significant economic losses in response to increased opioid drug use.
City Council voted unanimously March 20 to allow the city to retain the legal services of Kelley and Ferraro, LLP. The ordinance, introduced by Mayor Bob Stefanik and co-sponsored by Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, states the city has expended and continues to expend significant financial resources to respond to the impact of opioid drug use through its law enforcement, emergency services and prosecutorial services.
Attorneys from Kelley and Ferraro will represent the city of North Royalton’s interests in its claim for economic losses arising out of the alleged fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of various prescription drugs known as opioids, such as narcotic painkillers like oxycodone that have led to drug addiction resulting in adverse consequences to residents and the city.
The city is joining a combined federal lawsuit involving hundreds of governmental bodies currently being handled by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland.
Law Director Tom Kelly said the suit alleges that big pharmaceutical companies were engaged in the production, manufacturer, distribution, promotion and sale of these opioids under the guise that they were not addictive, which turned out to be false. Money could be made available to the governmental agencies that were impacted. The attorneys for the case will only be paid if and when damages are awarded.
Kelly said the city’s general fund took a hit as a result of the opioid crisis, with considerably more money being spent toward police, fire and rescue services.
“That doesn’t even begin to touch the families of all the people who were addicted and many of whom succumbed and died as a result of these drugs,” Kelly said.
He went on to say the city doesn’t necessarily anticipate a great sum of money, but that the city is doing this because it’s the right thing to do and hopefully sends a message to pharmaceutical companies.
“We certainly hope pharmaceutical companies that engaged in deceptive practices will be chastised by this and other pharmaceutical companies won’t be encouraged to engage in the same kind of conduct. We want our residents to be safe and healthy and not subject to these terrible addictions that are largely the result of a legal and justifiable ingestion of these painkillers,” Kelly said.
As a prosecutor in his day job, Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris said he wholeheartedly supports and endorses this action by the city.
“I have been prosecuting ‘pill mills’ and drug cases since 2000 and know what damage and harm the manufacturers have done. Manufacturers, doctors, pharmacists who all have and owe a duty of care to people must be held accountable when that duty is violated,” Kasaris said.
“I strongly believe we as a community need to take the fight of this epidemic right back to the source: the drug companies. The costs of this epidemic are too high with the amount of community resources being used to combat this, crimes and, most important, lives lost even here in North Royalton,” he said. “It is also personal for me because one of my residents here in Ward 3 last year died of an overdose at such a young age.”
Ward 5 Councilwoman Cheryl Hannan said the hope is that any financial award from this lawsuit could be used to help combat the problem.
“My hope is that some of the damages recovered will go toward funding education and prevention programs and providing necessary treatment and services for those who became addicted,” she said.