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Bar Buzz: At least 14 counties suing opioid industry

Pete Orput

Pete Orput

At least 14 Minnesota counties have filed suit against manufacturers and distributors to recoup the costs of dealing with the opioid epidemic.

That information comes from Pete Orput, the Washington County Attorney. Orput, who spearheaded Minnesota’s opioid litigation, is the Minnesota County Attorneys Association’s designated liaison to the multi-jurisdictional litigation.

He supplied an updated count on Thursday, but said it is possible his numbers are already out of date “There may be more counties involved by now,” Orput said. “This was current a month ago.”

In early December, officials announced that three Minnesota counties — Washington, Mower and Ramsey — had filed suit against the opioid industry. Orput’s numbers show that, as of mid-January, 11 more had signed on.

He said he expects six more Minnesota counties to follow suit, and that several of them may have filed already. He could not confirm Thursday morning whether any others had.

Minnesota counties now known to have filed suit include Ramsey, Steele, Morrison, Olmsted, Itasca, Anoka, Hennepin, Dakota, St. Louis, Mower, Washington, Douglas, Chisago and Carver.

At least eight of those are represented by the Minneapolis-based Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen law firm. Other firms involved include Gustafson Gluek (Minneapolis); Briol & Benson (Minneapolis); Motley Rice (Mount Pleasant, S.C.); and Crueger Dickinson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.). Several Minnesota counties have more than one firm assisting in the litigation.

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, which has seen a dramatic spike in opioid overdoses among its members, filed suit in December.

The county suits seek to force the industry to halt deceptive marketing in Minnesota and to mitigate the “public nuisance” caused by rapidly accelerating addiction to both pills and — when physicians cut patients off prescriptions — street heroin.

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