Leavenworth County has joined the list of government entities from around the country that are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Leavenworth County has joined the list of government entities from around the country that are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors.

A lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas on behalf of the County Commission. The lawsuit names numerous pharmaceutical companies as well as companies that sell pharmaceuticals.

“Plaintiff brings this civil action to eliminate the hazard to public health and safety caused by the opioid epidemic, to abate the nuisance caused thereby, and to recoup monies that have been spent because of Defendants’ false, deceptive and unfair marketing and/or unlawful diversion of prescription opioids,” the County Commission argues in the complaint that was filed in federal court.

The lawsuit alleges that “manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction.”

The lawsuit also alleges that “distributors and manufacturers intentionally and/or unlawfully breached their legal duties under federal and state law to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.”

Commissioners met behind closed doors in executive session Wednesday for consultation with Senior County Counselor David Van Parys.

When commissioners returned to open session, they voted to ratify actions that had been taken by Van Parys to retain legal counsel for the lawsuit, which resulted in the filing of the case in federal court.

Van Parys said the litigation will be a lengthy process.

According to Van Parys, attorneys representing the County Commission will be paid when the case is resolved. The payment to attorneys, which will be capped at 35% of the recovery, will be submitted to a judge for approval.

Van Parys said the county government has been contacted by numerous law firms regarding possible representation in opioid litigation.

“It’s a matter of national interest,” he said.

He said there already is what he described as “multi-district litigation” in the federal court system.

“Leavenworth County will undoubtedly become part of that,” Van Parys said.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the county commissioners argues the nation’s opioid epidemic is particularly devastating in Leavenworth County.

“Leavenworth County had a death rate due to drug poisoning of 16.4 deaths per 100,000 people from 2014 to 2016,” the lawsuit argues. “This death rate is higher than the Kansas average of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people over the same period.”

The lawsuit argues opioid addiction is one of the primary reasons residents of Kansas and Leavenworth County seek substance abuse treatment.

The lawsuit also argues that criminal activity associated with the use of opioids has increased, placing increased budgetary costs on law enforcement.

Leavenworth County Sheriff Andy Dedeke said a large number of the inmates in the county jail are in custody for offenses related to opioid usage or possession.

He said opioid addiction has resulted in costs to the Sheriff’s Office related to investigations and housing inmates.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the County Commission seeks an order that prevents the defendants from “engaging in unfair or deceptive practices in violation of law.” The lawsuit also asks that the defendants compensate the county “for past and future costs to abate the ongoing public nuisance caused by the opioid epidemic” and requests that an abatement fund be established. The county also is seeking various other damages.

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