Some Of Colorado’s Biggest Local Governments Eye Joining Opioid Lawsuits

<p>John Daley/CPR News</p>
<p>The memorial wall that is part of Colorado&#039;s recently launched “Lift The Label” opioid addiction awareness campaign. Each pill bottle represents 10 people who have died of an opioid overdose.</p>
Photo: Denver Considers Opioid Suit | Lift Label Memorial Wall - JDaley
The memorial wall that is part of Colorado's recently launched "Lift The Label" opioid addiction awareness campaign. Each pill bottle represents 10 people who have died of an opioid overdose.

Momentum is building on the opioid suit front in Colorado as more cities consider legal action. Denver and a dozen counties and cities may soon become the latest to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The claim is that the pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the crisis and should bear some of the costs related to the epidemic through spending on public services like health care, treatment, first responders, police, schools and libraries.

Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson said possible claims against manufacturers could include allegations of false, deceptive and unfair marketing practices. Claims against distributors could include failing to monitor and report suspicious opioid prescription orders.

“We believe that the industry has culpability and that the evidence will prove that,” Bronson said.

The drug manufacturers and distributors deny the allegations and say they will mount a vigorous defense.

Bronson said private attorneys may take the case. The group of communities will chose a firm and decide whether to go forward in the coming months.

“The taxpayers don’t pay to front any of the costs or fees associated with this litigation,” Bronson said. “The law firms get paid only if they have a recovery on our behalf and then they get paid out of that recovery.”

Governments hope a legal victory could bring much needed funding to fight the epidemic. “Our perspective is that there is strength in numbers,” Bronson said. “Also, the reality of the crisis is that is doesn’t stop at Denver’s border.”

The list of governments working with Denver include Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson and Teller counties, as well as the cities of Aurora, Black Hawk, Commerce City, Northglenn, Parker and the town of Hudson.

Bronson said the group has put out a request for qualifications to represent them in the litigation, to which seven firms have applied; interviews with a selection committee start June 15.

If Denver and the others join the litigation there will be nearly 20 local governments filing suit. Nationally more than 200 have filed similar suits.