City of Eureka Files Lawsuit in Response to Opioid Crisis
August 30, 2018
The City of Eureka has filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California against the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids in the United States, as well as the three primary wholesale distributors of prescription opioids in the country. The complaint alleges Defendants violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and the federal racketeering statute (“RICO”), and also that Defendants’ conduct constitutes a public nuisance, negligence, and unjust enrichment under California law.
Opioid-related overdoses are the leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassing fatal car accidents. Since 2000, more than 300,000 people have died from fatal opioid overdoses—more than five times the total number of American lives lost during the Vietnam War. In 2016, Humboldt County, of which Eureka is the county seat, had the second highest average overdose rate in California. Of the 1,925 people who died from opioid overdoses in California that year, 33 were from Humboldt County.
As is true around the country, the increase in prescription opioid use in Eureka was followed closely by a dramatic rise in heroin use. As prescription opioids become harder to obtain, many patients turned to heroin, which is often significantly cheaper but delivers the same effect as other opioids. The costs to Eureka and its departments are substantial. Humboldt Bay Fire (HBF) has incurred substantial costs from responding to overdoses, deaths, and injuries related to opioid abuse. HBF is close to finalizing a protocol to have all EMTs trained in the administration of Narcan, an expensive medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A significant portion of the Eureka Police Department’s (EPD) resources is now devoted to responding to the opioid crisis. EPD expends significant resources fighting drug trafficking, as well as responding to an increase in opioid incidents, including overdoses, and has instituted a protocol to train and distribute Narcan kits to its officers.
The City of Eureka has retained Keller Rohrback as outside counsel on a contingency-fee basis. Keller Rohrback is a law firm based in Seattle, with offices in California, and routinely litigates against the largest corporate defendants in the country. Keller Rohrback has already filed numerous opioid cases on behalf of counties, cities, and tribes as well as on behalf of Humboldt County. The City of Eureka joins these other entities from across the country seeking to hold manufacturers and distributors liable for the harms they have inflicted on American communities and the financial burden placed upon taxpayers.