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AMHERST TIMES: Town of Amherst hires legal firm in lawsuit against opioid pharmaceutical companies


AMHERST -- After unanimously adopting a resolution in October 2017, the Town of Amherst Board is authorizing its Attorney's Office to institute suit against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain medication, as well as Key Opinion Leaders hired by those manufacturers and distributors to mislead the public at large into believing, against all medical science, that opioids prescribed under a doctor's care cannot and do not lead to addiction.

According to Town Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa, "Amherst has seen numerous impacts to residents and the community throughout this crisis. The greatest impact, addiction and loss of life, has resulted in heightened concern among the community and Town. The Town has also seen increased costs to the municipality and its taxpayers, as well as a negatively-impacted quality of life for many."

"First responders in the Town of Amherst have observed firsthand the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic. In 2016 alone, 14 deaths were attributed to opioid related overdoses within the Town. For every death, there are many more overdoses where individuals were saved by family, friends, medical professionals or first responders. Citizens, families and our community in general have suffered greatly as a result of this deadly epidemic," said Amherst Police Chief John C. Askey.

Amherst's lawsuit details the Defendant's wrongdoings, which include: deceptive acts and practices by engaging in false advertising in the conduct of a business, trade, or commerce in this state whereby residents have been injured by this violation; public nuisance in that Defendants have negligently engaged in conduct or omissions which endanger or injure the property, health, safety or comfort of a considerable number of persons in the Town of Amherst by their production, promotion, and marketing of opioids for use by Amherst residents; fraud though misrepresentation and omissions of fact materials to Amherst and its residents to induce them to purchase, approve for purchase, administer, and consume opioids; and unjust enrichment by the Defendants profiting and benefiting from opioid purchases.

The Town Attorney's Office will be filing suit on March 6, 2018, after publishing a Request for Proposals, which yielded responses from several qualified law firms. An internal committee consisting of the Town Attorney, Deputy Town Attorney, Deputy Town Supervisor, Chief of Staff to the Town Supervisor, Chief Fire Dispatcher, and Chief of Police interviewed two firms in February 2018, and has recommended that the Town Board hire Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC, a firm experienced in handling these cases, as outside counsel to represent the Town in this lawsuit.

According to Stanley Sliwa, Town Attorney, "After conducting a nationwide search, we determined to hire Napoli Shkolnik, a New York City based plaintiffs' firm which specializes in mass tort litigation because they have a great deal of experience in handling large-scale pharmaceutical cases. In addition, it is important to have a firm that is well-positioned to drive pretrial negotiations with the target defendants. Napoli Shkolnik represent roughly 20 municipalities in similar suits and they are going to have a very large say in how the case is resolved. Indeed, Hunter Shkolnik has been designated as one of the lead attorneys in this litigation which has been consolidated in Suffolk County for discovery and settlement purposes. This will put the Town of Amherst in the best position to recover an amount that benefits our residents, our first-responders, and the law enforcement community."

"It is critical for our community to address the opioid crisis. The lawsuit is just one avenue to stem the flow of opioids as well as recoup dollars that will benefit our town," added Councilwoman Jacqualine Berger. "Amherst will expand our education programs and outreach into the community through the Task Force for Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth."

The Town of Amherst Attorney's office will work closely with Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC as the lawsuit moves forward. Napoli Shkolnik is working on a contingency basis and will only receive remuneration for their efforts and reimbursement for any costs if the suit is successful.

Originally published on Amherst Times. Republished with permission.

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