CAMBRIDGE, Ill. — A civil suit has been filed in Henry County Circuit Court against opioid manufacturers, distributors and "front groups."
The suit, filed by the New York firm of Simmons, Hanly, Conroy LLC, lists nine causes of action and seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, treble damages in penalties and costs and a declaratory judgement requiring defendants to abate the public health nuisance.
The defendants include Abbott Laboratories, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Geriatric Society, the American Pain Society, Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health, Corporate Creations Network, Endo Health Solutions, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson and Johnson, McKesson Corporation, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma L.P., Teva Pharmaceuticals, The Purdue Frederick Company and Cephalon Inc.
Brand name opioids, such as OxyContin and Percocet, are listed as well as generics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
"The Henry County lawsuit is one lawsuit among many others," according to Ed Tagliaferri, an executive with DKC Public Relations in New York which is working with Simmons, Hanly, Conroy LLC.
Tagliaferri said all of the firm's Illinois opioid cases have been consolidated in Cook County where Judge Allen Price Walker will hear them. He said the civil suit was filed Aug. 28 in Cambridge because that's where the client — Henry County — is located.
Henry County Board Chairman Roger Gradert, R-Gradert, said the county board voted two months ago to participate in the suit and county administrator Colleen Gillaspie has provided Henry County information to Simmons, Hanly, Conroy LLC.
"Other than that, we're not overly active in it," Gradert said.
Gillaspie said some of the larger counties represented by the law firm already are researching cost figures related to opioid deaths in case damages are awarded.
"We haven't even started that research," she said.
Henry County State's Attorney Matt Schutte said his office's role was strictly in an advisory capacity and that Simmons, Hanly, Conroy LLC was responsible for the actual filing of the suit.
The nine complaints include consumer fraud against both manufacturer defendants and front group defendants, uniform deceptive acts and practices, insurance fraud, civil conspiracy, public nuisance against both manufacturer defendants and distributor defendants, negligence and unjust enrichment.
The suit alleges the defendants made false and misleading statements about how opioids lead to addiction, which has cost society millions of dollars and caused grievous injury to Illinois consumers, including those in Henry County. The insurance fraud claim alleges the defendants knowingly caused false claims to be made to Henry County's health plan and workers' compensation program, which are self-insured.
"The staggering rates of opioid use, abuse and addiction in the county alone, resulting from the manufacturer defendants' marketing efforts, have caused substantial injury to the People of Illinois and the County," the suit states.
The suit alleges manufacturers made unsubstantiated claims about the safety of opioids, even though they knew existing studies were based on short-term use of opioids. The suit also alleges the defendants sought to expand the use of opioids beyond 90 days and for such conditions as back pain, arthritis and headaches.
The defendants have 30 days to respond to avoid judgment or decree by default.