Taking the Opioid Crisis to Court

SCRANTON -- Lackawanna County officials announced Friday they will attempt to quantify the cost of dealing with the area's opioid crisis -- and they plan to sue the big drug companies to recoup the money.

County commissioners said that they will be fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic from inside the county courthouse. In the next few weeks, attorneys will be filing a lawsuit seeking damages from the companies the commissioners believe contributed to the epidemic.

At a news conference outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, commissioners and a team of lawyers from New York City announced that they soon will be filing a lawsuit against 14 pharmaceutical companies.

"We intend to show that these pharmaceutical companies knew from the very beginning when they started marketing these opioid drugs that they were addictive and they were unnecessary for what they were prescribed to do," said Joe Cappelli, Marc J. Bern & Partners.

Commissioners say the lawsuit won't cost the taxpayers anything up front. The lawyers will take 25 percent of whatever money the county may win.

First, a forensic audit will be done to determine how much heroin and opioid-related cases have cost the county.

"Honestly, I don't know you put a number on it, it will be huge. From corrections, from prosecutions through our office, to law enforcement on the street, health care, insurance, it is going to be a huge number," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon.

It's long been thought that the over-prescription of opioid pain medications leads to a heroin addiction, something that's claimed more than 200 lives in Lackawanna County since 2014.

One of those is Sammi Henehan of Scranton. Her parents hope the lawsuit changes the way people get their hands on opiates.

"In order to get those doctors to get more regulated, you have to go after the guy who's supplying it. It's kind of like a drug dealer," Marty Henehan said.

A lawsuit will take a long time but the people hit hardest by the heroin and opioid epidemic believe it's worth it.

"I really believe that it will, yes, they see that we're not going to tolerate it anymore and we'll go to any length to stop it," Stacy Henehan said.

The lawsuit that will be filed in Lackawanna County is similar to a few dozen filed by cities and towns all over the U.S. They are all reminiscent of lawsuits filed against big tobacco in the 1990s.

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33 comments

  • Stevon

    I have had Chronic Pain for 10 yrs,2 back surgeries,3 knee surgeries,and need knee replacement now,but my point is that while I have pain I still work and Wholesale Cars,I have bad day’s and good day’s,and some day’s not able to do very much,but I use other than Just opioids for pain,Acupuncture,go to the Y,get in the water,Sauna,Spa,Jacuzzi,etc,and try like hell not to fall,but I need Opiates to help me have true QUALITY of LIFE,to work and be sane,it is scary as hell all the BS in this so called epidemic,and now the CDC in involved why?I guess they consider it a disease,if it is ,it is a wanted disease,I have always been careful and afraid of taking pills,but I have to, to feel better,and work,now some wear their pain on their shoulders for all to see,I do not do that,and people that don’t know me does not know I even hurt,control is the key,Drs.use to say talk it whether you need it or not, so it stay’s in you,I never did that,I took only when I hurt,and you go as long as you can in between the time to take it again,and trust me I have pushed the boundaries of how long one can go in pain,b-4 you have to take Pain Meds,I have gone as far as to the point of fixing to go into W/D’s or in the middle stages of that BS,it is no fun to be dependent on anything period,but people that r in their 30’s 40’s do not have surgery,unless it is critical,then get on your feet and say F’this go back to work,and live your life,if you don’t it will be taken from you,I’m not these people’s problem, it is the other’s that have no life,no happiness,emptiness,depression,etc,and now cheap Heroin and Fentanyl,one must ask how did all this Fentanyl get on the market,Black market it has to come from the manufacturer,see it is a conglomerate many heads to it,so be wise,be afraid very afraid, and take only when you really need too,and save as much as you can,,O I was born with Spondylolisthesis Grade II,L4- Protrudes out roughly 1/2 in.on L-5 bone on bone no disc in between,painful yes,,The key is you have to be active,hurt or not,you will hurt anyway,you must move,and Andrew Kolodny is an idiot,mitigate the severity of people in pain,I wish they could want in some of our collective shoe’s and see the real fact,so this crusade on Opioids is odious at best,what about Alcohol,Nicotine out law that bs as well,lets all suffer together,,

  • short arm of the law

    They know the dealers but they make money off of it so the dealers get away with killing the users by spiking the stuff when they don’t pay.
    The problem is those that enforce the law and let their tommy parsons walk & relocate to Florida when the heat is on

  • Lance

    A frivolous suit that should be throwm out. Yes opiods are being abused. But not everyone who takes them is an addict. They actually use them to reduce pain. The ones who abuse them a variety of reasons some to get high, some because they never stopped treating themselves for pain to a path where they can no longer function without it. What’s next suing fast food places because the food they serve isnt the healthiest. Beer and alcohol because their product gets abused too. Again no one forces a person to over use anything, whether its eating,drinking or taking a prescription. Put the blame where it belongs on the individual.

  • Capt Bogart

    Why fix the problem.. Let the drug dealers earn their $$$, and now the companies that manufacture anti-heroin drugs can earn moneys too! Awesome. Both sides are reaping the benefits. Nothing like good old commercialism.

  • TRKRGR

    hmm…has anyone noticed the problems alcohol causes? And the companies that produce it, glorifies it. Maybe that’s part 2. All in all, it’s still the responsibility of the individual to take it, drink it, shoot it, snort it or smoke it. . . . or not.

  • Robert

    Obviously a bunch of fools that no nothing about the suffering an addict deals with each and every day are posting there ignorant comments blaming sick addicts. You’re a bunch of sad individuals, sure you have real nice lives , most are surely obese and unaware what addiction is. Go back to you’re safe spaces, real people don’t give a shit what you idiots think. Bunch of Hillary voters knocking people that are suffering. Idiots

    • Lance

      Robert you obviously know someone close to you who was an addict or lost their life due to their addiction. Addiction isn’t cause for making fun. But the blame for that addiction is the responsibility of the addict. I too know relatives that were alcoholics but they chose to get help and recover. Drug addicts too can get help if they really want to. Blaming drug companies or doctors isnt a solution. But confronting an addict with reality is.

  • Me

    The question is why is this problem … to this extent confined to the United States? Certainly people in other industrialized countries are being prescribed the same drugs? Why aren’t their citizens dropping like flies? Is it because they have a better quality of life and therefore don’t feel the need to self medicate? Yep that’s part of it. And why is it that other industrialized countries don’t have immigration problems like this country that forces them to redistribute it’s resources to non citizens? For example, Pa spent 22 million dollars last year incarcerating illegal aliens, nevermind all the other costs associated w these people, surely this money is needed for our residents. And then we have the cartels. Never-mind this sanctuary bs for foreigners, create the sanctuary for your own people. This is a multilayered issue and it all goes back to our elected officials. For example Chicago doesn’t want to be forced to get rid of 42k illegal immigrants because they’ll lose 55 million dollars in funding from the federal government. That’s pennywise pound foolish. I can’t wait for this trial to start, those pharma companies are gonna dazzle them w their own incompetence. Wait and see.

    • El Ma

      Other countries experience their own “addiction” issues and this isn’t just confined to the U.S. Russia has very dire statistics on alcoholism and heroin, as well. Big Pharma is a despicable industry, absolutely. The FDA is NOT the advocate of the consumer or the patient. Doctors are no longer allowed to practice true medicine – the medical industry is fueled by keeping people sick and keeping people spending their income ON their illnesses.

      So……….heroin is a street drug. It is not prescribed by doctors. Oxycodone is a manufactured drug. It IS prescribed by doctors and people become “addicted” to these (and, others), because of personal issues. Many heroin addicts have never been prescribed pain medications and marijuana is ONLY a “gateway” drug for teenagers that have mental or personality disorders. ANY addict has much more going on in their thinking processes and mental health than an instant need to consume prescribed pain medications or illegal street drugs.. Thanks to programs like “House,” addiction became alluring, seductive, and a hallmark of a brilliant mind.

      Nope. Addictions are the responsibility of the addict and the doctors that prescribe LEGAL medications like candy need to have their licenses revoked. Aside from that, we need to stop having “Addiction Awareness” rallies, blowing up balloons, pinning on colored ribbons, and touting these addicts as poor, unwitting victims. An addict is one of the most devious types out there because they will say and do anything to get what they want. “So-and-so was such a wonderful person,” is a load of hot air. That addict that overdosed ran their friends, family, and loved ones through every wringer imaginable, and people need to get this fact through their heads instead of touting them as some sort of heroes that have lost a struggle with cancer.

      • Me

        I’m disagreeing w you about Russia on heroin. Russia has an alcohol problem and always has. They do not have a heroin issue that compares to ours. No country does. Secondly, marijuana is NOT a gateway drug alcohol is. That’s bs that’s been rumourized since the Mexicans brought it here. I smoke marjunia and I have never taken an opioid that wasn’t prescribed to me. I am not a drug addict. Plenty of people that smoke pot are not drug addicts. Infact the evidence supports the theory that marijuana is helpful in overcoming opioid addiction. Yet our politians drag their feet on this issue. Stop blaming the pharma companies and the doctors, this is a cartel issue. Furthermore, Columbia just increased poppy production to the umpteenth degree. Why aren’t we listing them as the terrorist country that they are and why aren’t we burning their coca fields? Forget the addict here, they are a byproduct of this activity. These cartels have planes, speedboats, tunnels and now submarines all w a destined to drop their filthy wares here. These states that are suing the pharma companies are desperate for cash. They can’t get anymore from their constituents or the federal govt…so they THINK they’re gonna steal it from the next best place. I think they are gonna loose this fight after which if I was CEO of any of this companies I’d sue the pants off them for slander, harassment, legal fees incurred and all the rest. You can not compare big tobacco to pharma companies because big tobacco never had a health benefit. These people are naive at best ignorant at worst. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

    • Eat At Joe's ;-)

      What? Europe is in the middle of the worst immigration crisis of modern day. Other countries have culture problems, and its reckless to heap everything together like that. Addicts are excused because its not their fault anymore. Well I agree that addictions should be described as what they are instead of being some kind of sad thing that they cant help.

  • 🙄

    The doctors do over prescribe all of these opioids however it’s your own decision to fill the script and take it or not. I know myself personally will not take them just because they prescribe them I use Motrin or ibuprofen. I did take them when I had my c- sections but only if I absolutely had to. I ended up getting rid of them cuz I didn’t need them after a few days or so. So for these fools to go after just the companies and the drs is just stupid. Part of the blame belongs on those who fill these unnecessary pain meds and take them just because.

      • El Ma

        I am recovering addict. It is my choice as to whether or not I will use, today. That’s it. That’s all. The drama/trauma and current social acceptance of addiction as something that a person “just can’t help” is bogus and goes right along with the Label Game – slap a label on everyone’s forehead, give them some pills, pin a ribbon on, and BINGO…..nobody is responsible or accountable for their own actions, choices, and decisions, anymore.

        100% bullshirt.

      • 🙄

        I’m not an idiot. It’s the truth and no one ever wants to hear the truth. The point I was making is it’s a choice to take the pain meds . So before you you go calling people names try to think about what is being said otherwise shut the f up and get a life.

  • El Ma

    I detest Big Pharma. But, this is outrageous. Opium and its derivatives have been used for millennia to treat pain and various conditions. It wasn’t THAT long ago that laudanum was available and refined coca was the active ingredient in a well-known soft drink.

    The people responsible for the addictions are the addicts, themselves, as well as the doctors that handed them out like M&M’s. Big Pharma plays a role, certainly, but law suits create excuses. Addiction isn’t like a prolapsed heart valve, and there has got to be some accountability by the patient/addicts, at some point.

  • Larry Stokes

    These scumbag junkies get what they deserve. A cemetery plot…they know what they are doing and nobody put a gun to their head…i say amp up the potency and let them all get there final and ultimate high…good riddance

  • les

    Ridiculous. Why not blame the idiots who decide to ingest this stuff and cause harm to themselves? Opiates have been around for decades. And now it’s a problem? This country is turning into a bunch of litigating pussies!

    • Me

      Absolutely. I know someone who has been a heroin addict for 35 years and was never prescribed an opiod in his life. He has overdosed many times, been in at least 10 rehabs, no exaggeration here, and jail multiple times as well and he’s still a heroin addict. Who should the county sue in this case? Him? These people are desperate to blame someone other than themselves. This is a cartel problem that’s been left unchecked w contributing social issues, like handing our money to illegal immigrants instead of our own, that causes them to prefer being high. Period.

  • Me

    Good luck…it’s not the pharma companies and it’s not the doctors. It’s the drug cartels. Why don’t they sue Columbia Mexico and the rest of the South American countries shipping this through our borders. While they are at it, they should sue all countries that allow their citizens to stay here and even promote it by providing funding for their citizens to fight our immigration laws, like Mexico for example. This is laughable.