In an effort to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, the city of Auburn is pursuing a civil litigation agreement against opioid manufacturers and distributors who've fraudulently marketed their drugs.
On Thursday, the city council will vote on a resolution that could authorize a special counsel agreement between the city and the attorneys of Napoli and Shkolnik, PLLC. The agreement would retain the firm in order to relieve any damage Auburn residents have suffered through from the deceptive marketing opioid companies have allegedly pushed.
According to Auburn Corporation Counsel Stacy DeForrest, Napoli and Shkolnik represents several municipalities throughout New York state in claims against opioid manufacturers. In a memo she addressed to the council, DeForrest said approximately 1,800 lawsuits of this kind have been filed nationwide, including hundreds in New York.
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In March, New York state sued Purdue Pharma, an OxyContin manufacturer, for allegedly marketing opioid painkillers without acknowledging the risks of addiction. In a court-filed supplemental complaint, prosecutors said the company may have ended its "deceptive marketing spree," but it had done nothing to "correct the misinformation they propagated in the medical community."
"These are serious cases," DeForrest said Wednesday. "We need to address that these (opioid manufacturers) that have been dishonest need to be held accountable and be responsible for the damage done."
The special counsel agreement, if passed by council, would come at no cost to the city, Councilor Dia Carabajal said Wednesday. Any monetary sum awarded through litigation would be given to the city by a fraudulent manufacturer, and any legal fees that Auburn would owe Napoli and Shkolnik would come out of the award. As far as how or if the remaining money would be given to Auburn residents who've suffered from the crisis, DeForrest could not provide details as of Wednesday.
Throughout her four years on council, Carabajal said the opioid crisis, which "drops a burden on local and state governments," comes into council conversations "monthly, if not more."
Carabajal said Wednesday that fighting the crisis has been and continues to be a city priority. She highlighted continuous efforts made by the city's police department, health care services and emergency respondents.
Additionally, Carabajal praised the police department's drug drop-box program, which provides residents a way of properly disposing unwanted or unused medications.
"Properly disposing unused opioids is big when it comes to preventing addiction," Carabajal said as she acknowledged effort made by Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler to get the program running.
In February 2018, the Cayuga County Legislature's Government Operations Committee voted for the county to join about a dozen other counties in a similar lawsuit against fraudulent opioid manufacturers. The committee hired Napoli and Shkolnik for representation.
Staff writer Dan Orzechowski can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @OrzechowskiDan.