SC among one of many states involved in legal battle in fight against opioid epidemic

VIDEO: SC among one of many states involved in legal battle in fight against opioid epidemic

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - More than 2,000 state, local and tribal governments are trying to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.

County leaders and attorneys throughout the country have gotten involved in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation that is being coordinated in the Northern District of Ohio.

It includes hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in federal court.

The County Executives of the America Opioid Task Force, an association of county officials that represent the people, met on Thursday to talk about their role in the litigation.

The task force has pushed forward with litigation against the opioid industry over the last two and a half years in hopes of reaching some type of resolution or settlement.

They say that the national litigation is moving quickly, and the first trial is set for October.

The state is currently one of the hardest hit states in the epidemic.

According to new data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Charleston County gave out more pain pills than any other county in the country.

Joe Rice, a Mount Pleasant attorney leading the fight in the federal litigation which includes representing South Carolina. said the effects of these pills circulate throughout local communities.

“The opioids have affected our country on main street, in the schools, in the local hospitals, in local law enforcement,” he said.

That’s why officials are now trying to create a negotiation class, which would include every municipality fighting against the crisis into a discussion about a settlement.

This would give cities, towns, and parishes that chose to opt into the class, a chance at the negotiation table.

“The class has to vote 75 percent in favor of the settlement, and if we don’t have 75 percent then the people have spoken that the deal wasn’t fair,” Rice explained. “But if we do get 75 percent, we can give closure to one hundred percent of the problem in the country.”

Rice said he should find out whether or not a class action settlement would be possible sometime next month.

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