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Attorneys announce lawsuit against drug companies for impact on SWVA opioid crisis

Three lawsuits are expected to be filed in U.S. District Court this week on behalf of Smyth, Wythe, and Russell Counties against drug manufacturers and distributors. (L. Owens, WCYB)

Local and national lawyers have announced plans to sue major prescription drug manufacturers and distributors on behalf of southwest Virginia counties to seek compensation for incurred cost of the growing drug abuse problem.

Attorneys representing the counties say the drug abuse problem costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

"We want to be able to recover compensation for our communities and our counties that have suffered these tremendous losses because of the increased incarcerations and the increased law enforcement presence, social services, medical, and the list just goes on and on," Senator Ben Chafin said, who is one of the attorneys representing the localities.

They claim the companies are to blame for negligent prescribing and distribution of opioid medications. Among the lawyers are state representatives Senator Chafin and Delegate Jeff Campbell. They are also being assisted by Kimberly C. Haugh out of Abingdon, Virginia. National mass court law firms Wagstaff and Cartmell, LLP out of Kansas City, Missouri and Dumas Law Firm LLC out of Mobile, Alabama are joining to assist in the litigation.

"It was critical we find partners who were willing to do this on a contingency basis, so ultimately the counties are not having to appropriate any tax dollars locally at all," Campbell said.

They are filing suit on behalf of Smyth, Wythe, and Russell counties. Each county is expected to represented by a unique and individual filing.

"We will have to build an economic model and we have hired preeminent economists nationwide to do that. It will be unique to the individual county, but I can fairly safely tell you we're talking additional millions of dollars per year in lost revenue addressing the impact as a result of the opioid crisis," Campbell said.

Attorneys expect additional southwest Virginia counties will seek representation.

"There are a number of other counties throughout southwest Virginia who we have appeared at board meetings and given a presentation for. We understand they are currently in the process of choosing representation, so we expect we will be representing a large number of counties in southwest Virginia," Chafin said.

The specific defendants have not yet been named, but News 5 has been told they will be major prescription drug manufacturers and distributors. Those cases are expected to be filed in U.S. District Court in Abingdon this week.

It is likely those cases will be involved in multi-jurisdictional litigation suits heard in Cleveland, Ohio.

We will continue to follow this developing story and bring you the latest details as they become available.

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