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Garden City, Island Park sue drug companies over opioid crisis

At least two Long Island villages are suing

At least two Long Island villages are suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid addiction.  Credit: AP/Keith Srakocic

The villages of Island Park and Garden City filed federal lawsuits Tuesday against more than 20 health care providers, pharmaceutical companies and distributors, seeking damages for costs associated with the opioid crisis.

The two villages filed lawsuits against companies including McKesson Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, claiming “economic damages” and costs for providing medical care, treatment, counseling and rehabilitation for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction, according to court records.

The villages are also seeking damages for treating infants born with opioid-related conditions, increased costs for law enforcement and costs for providing care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disabilities or incapacitation.

“Kids are overdosing every day, and I really blame the pharmaceutical companies for what they did,” said David Grossman, a West Islip-based attorney representing the villages. “It was an intentional, evil act.”

The lawsuits were the first cases filed by local municipalities on Long Island in federal court. Nassau and Suffolk counties filed lawsuits against pharmaceuticals companies in state courts in 2017. They joined a suit filed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James that includes 47 other counties and municipalities in the state.

Several other communities, including Long Beach, Amityville and the Town of Southampton, are also considering lawsuits, pending local board resolutions, Grossman said.  

The village lawsuits will be heard in Northern District of Ohio U.S. District Court, where more than 2,000 cases have been filed against drug companies and are being heard as part of settlement negotiations. The lawsuits were filed by Grossman and Georgia-based attorney Mark Tate, who is coordinating lawsuits filed by communities along the East Coast.

The top defendant, San Francisco-based McKesson Corp., a pharmacy wholesaler that does business in New York, did not respond to a request for comment.  

The villages and towns are filing individual lawsuits in hopes of recouping expenses specifically for their communities instead of receiving residual settlements through state or counties lawsuits, Grossman said. The lawsuit does not list the total amount the villages are seeking.

Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said Island Park has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, leading to deaths of residents — particularly youths — in the village.

“I think considering the damage opioids gave to communities, and this community in particular, we have to pursue them. I don’t think they can get away with it,” McGinty said. “We’ve lost a whole generation of young people ... there should be a large penalty. This is truly a tragedy, and we’re not going to sit and take it. Island Park was directly affected, and it’s important the village make a strong statement, but it’s not going to bring back our sons and daughters.”

The lawsuit accuses manufacturers of making false statements and contradicting drug warning labels, saying pharmaceutical companies “pervert the understandings of opioids and the risks of opioid use.”

The lawsuit accuses drug companies of targeting doctors that treat chronic-pain patients and “targeted vulnerable patient populations like the elderly and veterans, who tend to suffer from chronic pain. The manufacturer defendants targeted these vulnerable patients even though the risks of long-term opioid use were significantly greater for them,” the lawsuit states. “The manufacturer defendants deceptively marketed opioids by advertising that opioid use generally is safe.”

New York law requires drug distributors to monitor suspicious orders and prevent abuse of prescriptions, the lawsuit states. The drug companies are accused in the lawsuit of breaching their duties to control opioid distribution into the village by filling repeated suspicious orders.

“Defendants’ conduct caused death and injury to residents and will otherwise significantly and unreasonably interfere with public health, safety and welfare, and with the public’s right to be free from disturbance and reasonable apprehension of danger to person and property,” the lawsuit states.

With Yancey Roy and Vera Chinese

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