FRANKFORT – Attorney General Andy Beshear today announced the legal team his office will partner with in the investigation and prospective litigation against drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers where there is evidence that they contributed to the opioid epidemic by illegally marketing, distributing and selling opioids to Kentuckians.
To support this litigation, Beshear in June issued a public request for proposal (RFP) for legal services to assist the Commonwealth in multiple lawsuits and to ensure that Kentucky tax dollars are not used for the costs of litigation.
The RFP criteria, by which bidders were evaluated, included their background and relevant experience, overall cost, technical approach and work schedule. Specific criteria included experience with complex pharmaceutical, health care, Medicaid and consumer protection litigation; the quality and experience of the specific lawyers proposed; and the resources such as document management and investigatory capacity the bidder could provide.
A diverse group of evaluators assessed and scored 17 bids, which included at least 53 firms. The contract was awarded to the highest scoring proposal, which was submitted by the team of Morgan & Morgan; Motley Rice; The Lanier Law Firm; and Ransdell Roach & Royce PLLC.
This team includes three national firms with prominent attorneys, and one Kentucky-based firm, featuring a former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice. Morgan & Morgan and Motley Rice have filed numerous similar opioid cases, and the firms collectively have won billions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies. The Lanier Law Firm has achieved numerous billion-dollar jury verdicts against the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
“We look forward to working with this experienced team of local and national attorneys who have the resources and knowledge to help this office secure funds,” Beshear said. “We need the best team to help us repair the harm caused by those who have played a role in Kentucky’s opioid crisis.”
The contract provides that the bidder – and not the Commonwealth – will pay the costs of the litigation. State tax dollars will not pay the attorneys, who will instead receive a share of any verdict or settlement.
Morgan & Morgan, headquartered in Orlando, is among the largest exclusively plaintiff law firms in the world with 40 offices in nine states including five offices in Kentucky. Morgan & Morgan filed the first West Virginia lawsuit against drug wholesalers, including McKesson, on behalf of counties and has filed eight such actions since that time with several more pending.
Motley Rice, headquartered in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is among the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ firms, securing settlements in significant health, environmental and consumer fraud litigation. During the last several decades, Motley Rice has led or participated in some of the most important consumer protection litigation, both for government and for private class actions.
Mark Lanier and The Lanier Law Firm, with offices in Houston, New York and Los Angeles, has built its reputation from billions of dollars in recovery with settlements against the world’s largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.
Ransdell Roach & Royse PLLC, headquartered in Lexington, is comprised of three lifelong Kentuckians – Keith Ransdell, John Roach and David Royse. Roach, a former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice and Bevin transition team member, and Royse will spearhead this project for their firm.
“There is not a more professional, committed and capable team than the one assembled for this matter,” said Morgan & Morgan founder John Morgan. “We will use our significant, successful experience and subject matter expertise to deliver a result that both makes the Commonwealth whole and deters future violators from similar conduct moving forward. This is no longer David versus Goliath, but Goliath versus Goliath.”
“The opioid crisis in Kentucky pays no respect to party lines, political ideology or socioeconomic status,” said John Roach and David Royse. “It has blindly ravaged our Commonwealth and its victims come from all walks of life. Ransdell Roach & Royse PLLC, is honored to join forces with a team of top litigators to represent the Commonwealth in bringing accountability to bear for this epidemic.”
Kentucky is one of several states participating in a bipartisan coalition among attorneys general using their investigative tools, including subpoenas for documents and testimony, to address the opioid crisis.
Beshear said Kentucky, like other states, is experiencing personal and economic devastation from the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, the total economic burden associated with prescription opioid abuse, including the cost of health care, lost productivity, substance abuse treatment and the impact on the criminal justice system in the United States is $78.5 billion a year.
Attorneys general in Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri and West Virginia have recently filed legal actions against drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers and several other states have issued RFPs seeking similar representation.
This agreement for contingency fee legal services is the latest action by Beshear’s office to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.
In August, Beshear launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to dispose safely of opioid medications at home. That program involves the drug deactivation pouch, Deterra®, which allows Kentuckians to dispose of their unused prescription opioids in a completely safe and environmentally friendly manner.
Beshear this week joined West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to press health insurance companies to adopt a financial incentive structure for the use of non-opioid pain management techniques when viable for chronic, non-cancer pain. Insurance companies can play an important role in reducing opioid prescriptions and making it easier for patients to access other forms of pain management treatment.
“Nearly 80 percent of heroin users first become addicted through prescription pills,” Beshear said. “If we can reduce opioid prescriptions and use other forms of pain management treatment, we will slow or even reverse the rate of addiction.”
Beshear and Morrisey joined 35 other state attorneys general across the nation in reaching out to health insurance companies.
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