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Pittsylvania County hires law firm to file suit against opioid manufacturers

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CHATHAM — After exiting closed session, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire a law firm to file a lawsuit against drug manufacturers in pursuit of damages for the opioid epidemic on Tuesday night.

The county hired Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP — a national public interest law firm — and Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., a Williamsburg-based business law firm.

According to the agenda, the supervisors were consulting with legal counsel about an "opioid damage assessment report" and "potentially participating" before making a decision.

The matter also had been discussed during closed session at the Aug. 21 work session.

As national awareness of the opioid epidemic has grown, hundreds states and localities across the country have filed lawsuits against the large pharmaceutical companies who marketed the drugs, including the commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed a lawsuit on June 27 against Purdue Pharma — a drug manufacturer who produces a type of oxycodone drug branded as OxyContin.

Herring's lawsuit claims the company used deceptive methods in marketing its drug effectiveness and safety, violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

In addition to the state's lawsuit, seven of Virginia's counties — Pulaski, Washington, Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Galax and Smyth — and the city of Galax have filed suits of their own between May and August. Many are suing more than one drug manufacturer. Washington County, in particular, is suing 19.

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP and Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. are also representing these counties.

Other localities have just begun taking the first steps toward suing.

One is just a few miles down U.S. 58. Martinsville's city council adopted a resolution declaring the opioid epidemic a public nuisance on Sept. 11.

The declaration opens up the city's ability to pursuing a lawsuit on the grounds of the Code of Virginia. State law grants localities the authority to take action to correct situations deemed public nuisance and pursue abatement of the issue. Correcting the public nuisance can include recovering financial damages attributed to the situation.

According to the Martinsville Bulletin, the city has hired an attorney and is reviewing its legal options.

Also, after closed session, the supervisors also said there would be an economic development announcement revealing Project Calcium at 10 a.m. Sept. 28.

Halle Parker reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at hparker@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7981.

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