Houston joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturer

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The city of Houston could get a portion of a settlement from an ongoing lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LLC, the makers of OxyContin, for alleged contribution to the opioid crisis affecting much of the U.S.

Houston City Council voted June 19 to join in on the suit filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which also includes Travis County, Nacogdoches County, Dallas County, Nueces County, Potter County and Nueces County Hospital District, according to city documents.

The lawsuit seeks damages from “pharmaceutical companies, distributors and others responsible for manufacturing, promoting, selling and marketing prescription opioids to members of the local population,” city documents state.

“It’s not too late to join, and if you don’t join you don’t get anything,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “This continues to draw attention to the opioid crisis; everybody benefits from drawing attention to this crisis.”

Representing Texas is the state Attorney General’s Office. The Lanier Law Firm, Reich & Binstock LLP and the Law Office of Richard Schechter PC are representing the counties, cities and hospital districts involved in the suit.

The Lanier Law Firm is also actively representing a number of plaintiffs in an additional federal lawsuit against Purdue.

The city entered a contingent fee agreement, meaning it will not pay any legal fees upfront but agrees to give a portion of any potential settlement, not exceeding 35%, to the participating firms.

Council Member Jack Christie said he supported joining the suit and hopes any potential settlement will be directed toward helping those affected by addiction.

“There’s going to be a big settlement here, but my demand is just like alternative fuels—every penny goes toward rehabilitation,” Christie said during a discussion of the lawsuit June 12. “Every penny should go to rehab to save these people from dying.”

Council Member Greg Travis, who voted against joining the lawsuit, said he had concerns about the “chilling effect” the litigation could have on the availability of pain medication for people in need of it.

“We need to be wary of the ramifications of those who are truly in need and not those who are abusing the system,” Travis said.

Council Member Dwight Boykins also voted against joining the lawsuit, citing a lack of participation from minority-owned law firms.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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