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Tampa joins growing wave of legal actions against makers and distributors of opioids

The city's 108-page complaint, filed Oct. 2, charges that the companies created a public nuisance, violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and were unjustly enriched. [AP]
The city's 108-page complaint, filed Oct. 2, charges that the companies created a public nuisance, violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and were unjustly enriched. [AP]
Published Oct. 12, 2018

TAMPA —Tampa is the latest bay area government to take legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors, charging they knowingly marketed and sold dangerous painkillers like Oxycontin, Percocet and Dilaudid.

"As shown below, all defendants contributed to the opioid crisis plaguing America and the city and must address the damages their actions caused," attorneys for Tampa wrote in a lawsuit filed recently in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. "No company should ever place its desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers or the communities where those customers live."

Tampa joins Hillsborough County and the state of Florida in suing manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, which makes Oxycontin, and Endo Pharmaceuticals, the producers of Percocet.

Nationwide, more than 1,000 local and state governments have sued the opioid industry.

CVS and Walgreens, which distributed the drugs, are also among more than two dozen companies named in the city's lawsuit. The county filed a similar suit in August. Attorney General Pam Bondi filed in May.

Tampa City Attorney Salvatore Territo had no comment on the suit, citing the city's policy against speaking out about legal actions.

Pinellas County sued the industry in May in an Ohio federal district court, said county spokeswoman Libby Bolling.

St. Petersburg's City Council approved hiring a consortium of attorneys in April to pursue legal remedies. Clearwater is also working on filing a lawsuit with attorneys Motley Rice, one of the nation's largest plaintiffs litigation firms, said spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.

The U.S. Department of Justice has identified the Middle District of Florida, a federal court district which covers Tampa Bay, as an opioid "hot spot."

In 2016, Hillsborough County led the state with 579 babies born addicted to drugs.

Former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, who has been involved in a number of suits against opioid manufacturers, is one of the attorneys representing both Tampa and Hillsborough County.

Moore led a successful legal effort beginning in 1994 against tobacco companies resulting in a $246 billion, 50-state settlement that funds smoking cessation programs.

The city of Tampa's 108-page complaint, filed Oct. 2, charges that the companies created a public nuisance, violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and were unjustly enriched.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.