OLYMPIA - In the face of the opioid epidemic and its contemporaneous loss of life, the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announces that Thurston County has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington against the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids in the United States, as well as the three primary wholesale distributors of prescription opioids in the country. The complaint alleges the Defendants violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the federal RICO statute, and that their conduct constitutes a public nuisance, negligence, gross negligence, and unjust enrichment under Washington law.
This lawsuit alleges that Thurston County has experienced significant harm because of the damage done by the large-scale distribution of opioid drugs through deliberate and systematic practices of providing false and misleading information to doctors and patients about the safety of prescription opioids over the last 20 years. As is true around the country, the rise of prescription opioids in Thurston County was followed closely by a dramatic rise in heroin use. For many, heroin replaced prescription opioids when they could no longer obtain prescription opioids.
Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim, who initiated the litigation on behalf of Thurston County, states, “Opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in Thurston County and opioid related deaths have increased dramatically over the past decade. We believe these companies directly contributed to the creation of this epidemic.”
Schelli Slaughter, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Director, agrees. “There’s no question the opioid crisis is a public emergency,” Slaughter said. “Last year, roughly half of the individuals who used our county syringe exchange reported their primary drug was heroin. We know that people from all walks of life are struggling with addiction, and that needs to be addressed not just on the streets, but at the source.”
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office partnered with Seattle based law firm, Keller Rohrback, to represent Thurston County in this lawsuit. Keller Rohrback is a nationally recognized law firm that routinely litigates against some of the largest corporate defendants in the country. In addition to Thurston County’s suit, they have also filed suits on behalf of King County, Pierce County, Skagit County, and the Cities of Tacoma, Mount Vernon, Burlington, and Sedro-Woolley.
“Thurston County is constantly looking at innovative ways to help those who are impacted by drug addiction in our community.” Tunheim said. “However, our strategy against this opioid epidemic must also include holding these companies, who have reaped substantial profits from the sale of these drugs, accountable for creating the worst human-caused epidemic in history.”
Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney