The City of Martinsville on behalf of Dickenson County and nine other Virginia counties and cities, including Norton, filed a motion Tuesday with the Virginia Supreme Court requesting appointment of a panel of circuit court judges to hear their request to consolidate the lawsuits previously filed against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by prescription opioids.

Dickenson County and the city of Alexandria were the first to file suit in March. All 11 counties and cities that filed the motion are represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC.

Along with Dickenson, Alexandria and Norton, also seeking appointment of a panel are the counties of Henry, Page, Washington, Lee, Giles and Pittsylvania and the cities of Martinsville and Galax. According to Tuesday’s announcement, these counties and cities have previously filed lawsuits in Circuit Courts across Virginia against dozens of opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs. 

The counties and cities filed the motion for the appointment of a panel to determine whether the lawsuits should be consolidated pursuant to the Virginia Multiple Claimant Litigation Act, according to the announcement.

The MCLA provides that if there are six or more cases filed in Virginia circuit courts that involve the same issues of law and fact and that arise out of the same series of transactions or occurrences, any of the parties may apply to a panel of circuit court judges designated by the Virginia Supreme Court for an order to transfer the cases to a single court.

The counties and cities that filed the motion today have taken the first step in the process by asking the Supreme Court to appoint the panel of circuit court judges.

“Transfer and consolidation of these cases into one venue is an efficient and practical way to resolve these cases as fairly and as quickly as possible for our clients. Today we have taken an important step towards achieving justice for the citizens of the counties and cities that we are privileged to represent,” said Kevin H. Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

All of the lawsuits underlying the requested consolidation allege that each defendant contributes to the opioid crisis in Virginia: drug manufacturers make the drugs and mispresent the truth about their benefits and addiction risks to doctors and patients; wholesale distributors ignore their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids leading to drug diversion to the black market; and PBMs leverage their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. 

All 11 counties and cities that have filed the motion in the Supreme Court have made similar allegations and brought the same legal claims against the defendants.

The defendants in the lawsuits include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Inc., Allergan PLC, and Insys Therapeutics; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corp.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

 The lawsuits allege that the opioid crisis in Virginia has killed thousands of Virginians, has caused thousands more to suffer dire health consequences, and has cost counties and cities across the Commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars by increasing the costs of law enforcement and court services, foster care and child placement services, and other services for which local communities have had to bear the cost. The lawsuits aim to recover costs of this nature.

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a public interest class-action litigation law firm that specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with claims of employment discrimination, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, consumer fraud, and whistleblowing, among other claims.

 Tracing its roots to 1919, Kaufman & Canoles has a long-standing history of representing local governments and municipalities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia with a variety of legal needs. 

The Cicala Law Firm PLLC is a plaintiff’s civil litigation firm with particular expertise in prosecuting commercial, consumer and health care fraud matters on behalf of individuals, businesses and governmental clients.