WENY News - Steuben County joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

Steuben County joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

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BATH, N.Y. (WENY) -- With a spike in opioid related deaths, Steuben County has joined numerous counties in filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

"We've all been discussing, some of the downstate counties, Suffolk county being the first one in the door, looked at potential litigation against opioid manufacturers and major distributors," said Steuben County Manager, Jack Wheeler. "Similar to what was done with the tobacco lawsuits of the late 90's."

The lawsuit claims certain pharmaceutical companies knew the dangers of opioid use, but still convinced physicians and patients that opioids were safe for long term treatment. 

Wheeler says the county legislature voted unanimously to get a lawyer after a recent overdose spike.

Steuben now joins 20 other counties as plaintiffs.

"In 2016, we had sixteen individuals pass away from opioid overdoses," said Wheeler. "Now that doesn't sound like a lot, but each one is a precious individual life lost far too soon due to an opioid overdose. Back in the mid to late 2000's, we would see one or a couple of these a year."

For their case, the county plans to look into numerous things, like medicaid spending for opioid treatment.

The county hopes to get a settlement from the case, in which they'll use the money to directly address opioid and drug abuse.

When they go to trial, Steuben and, other counties, hope it'll address the opioid issue and cut down the number of deaths across the state.

"We got questions all the time from residents, what can the county do to help stem the tide and address the opioid issue, and this is one thing that we can do that a number of counties are also doing," said Wheeler. 

Wheeler says the county is in the beginning stages of filing their lawsuit against the opioid manufacturers.

He believes by next month they'll hire a lawyer and start putting together their case. 

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