Spokane City Council members are considering suing opioid makers and distributors for allegedly lying about how addictive the drugs were and failing to contact law enforcement about thousands of suspicious opioid orders that were shipped to Spokane.
The council is expected to vote Monday on a resolution asking the city’s legal department to study a lawsuit’s feasibility. The resolution recognizes how the epidemic has impacted Spokane.
Spokane County is one of several counties across Washington that has had more opioid prescriptions than people living in the county. According to Washington Department of Health prescription monitoring data from 2014, there were more than 520,000 opioid prescriptions in the county, about 311,111 prescriptions for women and about 213,000 for men. There were 484,501 people living in Spokane County in 2014.
If the city sues opioid manufacturers and distributors, Spokane would be adding its lawsuit to ones already filed by Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson as well as several cities and counties.
Spokane has sued large companies before. In 2015, the city sued Monsanto claiming the company knowingly sold chemicals that were harmful to humans and the environment.
City Council President Ben Stuckart, who sponsored the resolution, said the city needs to hold companies accountable for breaking the law. He said Monday’s resolution just asks the city’s legal department to look into how much it would cost and what benefits it could provide the city, and most of the council was supportive of the idea.
City Councilman Breean Beggs said the opioid epidemic had caused an incalculable amount of human suffering, but also increased costs and calls for police, firefighters, courts and homeless services.
“If we don’t try to hold those companies responsible, our taxpayers will have to pay,” Beggs said.
Beggs said there is more information available now than there was several years ago about how much the epidemic has cost Spokane; other entities have been successful in criminal cases against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Spokane County, Pierce County, Thurston County, Clark County, Whatcom County, Walla Walla County, Kitsap County and Whitman County have all already sued opioid manufacturers or makers. Washington cities that have filed suit include Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia and Kent.
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