A legal team assembled last year by state Attorney General Chris Carr to target wayward opioid manufacturers filed its first lawsuit in Georgia Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court against a long list of drugmakers, alleging that they fueled the opioid addiction crisis for profit with false advertising that understated the dangers and exaggerated the benefits of their products.
The complaint accuses drugmakers of paying “front groups” and “key opinion leaders” to promote pills while deceptively appearing to be unbiased. And the suit alleges the drugmakers flooded the market with pills without providing the required monitoring, paving the way for improper use.
“Georgia has an opioid crisis,” said the complaint, signed by Carr and including the names of several counsel from plaintiffs firms.
“The opioid crisis does not exist as a matter of coincidence. Instead, it has been, and is still being, fueled by the unlawful actions of Defendants,” the complaint added.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, damages and restitution.
With it, Georgia joins a growing number of states and cities that have filed similar lawsuits in both state and federal courts.
Carr hired a team in September that includes a powerhouse plaintiffs firm from Alabama and some well-known litigators in Georgia to investigate and file lawsuits against makers and sellers of opioid drugs. Those firms are working a contingency-fee arrangement.
The group includes: John Bevis of the Barnes Law Group in Marietta as a special assistant attorney general for opioid litigation. The Barnes Law Group is working with The Cooper Firm in Marietta, Franklin Law in Savannah, and Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles in Montgomery and Atlanta.
“No Georgia community is a stranger to the devastating effects of the opioid crisis,” Carr said in a news release Thursday. “We are bringing this lawsuit quite simply to seek justice for the citizens of Georgia. It is imperative that we recover for the widespread damage that has been caused by this epidemic.”
Carr said in announcing the legal team last year that he would dedicate “every available resource our office has to fight the opioid epidemic—whether by increasing communication and coordination through our Statewide Opioid Task Force, cracking down on illegal prescribing through our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit or conducting training opportunities for law enforcement and prosecutors through our national partnerships.”
The effort became an issue in the November 2018 election. Carr’s Democratic opponent, Charlie Bailey, criticized that move for coming too late. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Carr’s delay in acting has put Georgia behind more than half of the states in the union,” Bailey said through a spokesman at the time.
Carr defeated Bailey in November and was elected to a four-year term that begins this month.
“For the record, we do not believe that the state is filing ‘late,’” the AG’s Communications Director Katie Byrd said Thursday. “We also do not believe that the timing of our filing has in any way affected how much the state is entitled to recover.”