It’s unlikely the city of Augusta will realize much of a windfall, if any, from joining a pack of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors to recover costs of the epidemic.
For one thing, there’s no assurance any monetary awards will be forthcoming.
For another thing, the lead law firm in the case, Dallas, Texas-based Baron and Budd, is representing some 185 cities and counties around the nation. After the law firm’s take of up to 50 percent of damages, and divvying up what’s left, there isn’t likely to be that much per locality.
We also recoil at the notion of predatory lawsuits, with law firms trolling for victims with which to punish U.S. industries. Not that this is one of them, but such practices have become problematic.
Rather, the chief benefit of the opioid lawsuits, which could take up to five years or more to resolve, might be what lawyers call “discovery.”
In a case such as this, that means the plaintiffs can demand relevant documents, correspondence and testimony from the drug companies about what they knew about the epidemic and when, and what they did or didn’t do about it commensurate with their legal duties.
In short, we may find out whether drug companies have acted responsibly or not in the midst of one of America’s worst modern-day epidemics.
Preliminary information indicates Augusta and environs has seen higher-than average prescribing of opioids, which include such drugs as morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl and methadone.
“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics (show) opioid prescribing rates in Augusta are above the national average of 66.5 per 100 people,” writes The Chronicle’s Susan McCord. “In 2016, the rate was 86.8 prescriptions per 100 people in Augusta while in neighboring Columbia County, the 2016 rate was 81 prescriptions per 100 people.”
If such lawsuits get to the truth, then they will have been well worth it.
But we should probably be more expectant of answers than money.