County Executive George Latimer announcing suit filed against opiod manufacturers and distributorsFeb. 6, 2018 -- Westchester County is facing the ever-escalating costs associated with combating the opioid epidemic. In our continued efforts to confront this crisis, Westchester County filed a complaint seeking to recover damages for use of public resources to fight the opioid epidemic in Westchester Supreme Court on February 6, 2018.

The complaint which includes, more than 30 defendants, alleges that the manufacturers, distributors and other entities intentionally misled the public about the dangers of opioids. The complaint outlines the history of how these defendants downplayed the risks associated with opioids such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Percocet while aggressively marketing them. This negligent behavior has led to a significant increase in County budgets for law enforcement, emergency care, first responder overtime, Narcan training and prevention and treatment programs. There will be no cost to the Westchester County taxpayers with this filing.

County Executive George Latimer said: “Too many lives have been lost to opioids. Too many parents in this County have watched their children suffer and die from these drugs. It is time that we take a stand and hold the pharmaceutical companies responsible. These companies clearly knew the risks associated with use of these products; they needed to build in protections for how they would be used and give proper attention to the likely abuse of their products. They ignored these concerns when promoting these drugs. They are drugs and they are dangerous - and the public must be protected. Further, the costs of this opioid epidemic have been borne by the taxpayers, in additional education, enforcement, and Medicaid costs. These costs must be borne instead by those who profited from the sales of these drugs.”

In 2017, approximately 64,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States – the largest annual increase of drug-related deaths ever recorded in US history. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. Westchester experienced 124 Opioid overdose deaths (includes heroin and prescription drugs) in 2016, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Westchester County Attorney John Nonna said: “Westchester County, like many local governments, has expended resources and suffered financial loss addressing the opioid crisis affecting our entire community. We believe that the manufacturers, marketers and promoters of these drugs have misled us as to the addictive power of these drugs in their negligent marketing and misleading promotion of them. They should, and will be, held accountable for this conduct.”

Paul J. Napoli of Napoli Shkolnik, the firm the County has partnered with in this endeavor said: “We are committed to working with the County in their fight against the makers of these dangerous and addictive painkillers.”

County Police Chief Inspector John Hodges, who is the Commanding Officer of the Detective Division, said: “From our efforts here in Westchester, to our work with federal partners, the Department of Public Safety is working tirelessly to identify and arrest those responsible for the distribution and sale of illegal opioids in our communities. Law enforcement, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. We will not arrest our way out of this problem, which has impacted families from every community, demographic and walk of life in Westchester.”

The Harris Project Founder and President Stephanie Marquesano, who lost her son Harris to opioids, joined Latimer for the announcement of the lawsuit: “My 19 year-old son Harris died by an accidental opioid overdose in 2013. This propelled me to become an advocate for prevention programming and integrated treatment to meet the needs of those with co-occurring disorders. I work closely with the County to support those facing the challenges of opioid addiction, and see first-hand the catastrophic impact on individuals and loved ones. This is a critical step in turning the tide on this epidemic, and creating long-term solutions.”

Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth said: “The County Department of Community Mental Health has experienced the devastating impact of opioid addiction in our County. This includes a significant increase in the need for crisis, inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as daily calls from family members desperate to keep their loved ones alive. The pharma industry needs to be held accountable for the unnecessary costs incurred as a result of prescription opioid misuse and abuse, including healthcare costs such as treatment services and crisis care.”

County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, M.D. said: “Westchester and the Nation are in the throes of a new public health crisis, the opioid epidemic, which last year killed more of our people than motor vehicle accidents. Prescription painkillers have actually overtaken heroin as the most common cause of opioid overdose deaths and every measure must be taken to stop this dangerous trend.”

The county is represented by the firm of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC in coordination with the Westchester County Attorney’s Office.

About the firm
Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is uniquely positioned to take on the complex task of pursuing opioid litigation on behalf of government entities. The firm has a long and distinguished history of representing counties, cities, and other municipalities. It also has expertise in pharmaceutical litigation. Numerous state and federal courts across the country have appointed Napoli Shkolnik to leadership positions in many of the largest pharmaceutical cases ever filed, and the firm has been involved in nearly every major pharmaceutical mass tort case over the last two decades.

Contact Information
Catherine Cioffi
Director of Communications, Westchester County

(914) 995-2932

Napoli Shkolnik PLLC
Salvatore C. Badala, Senior Associate

(212) 397-1000