Briana Heaney Published

State, National Organizations Petition W.Va. Supreme Court To Keep Huntington, Cabell Opioid Case Alive

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A group of national and state organizations are asking the state Supreme Court to side with Cabell County and Huntington in their lawsuit against major opioid distribution companies. 

The Amici Curiae, or friends of the court, are organizations that have an interest in the outcome of the case.

“The opioid crisis represents one of the greatest threats to public health in our lifetime, with profound consequences for the communities Amici serve,” the Amici said in the brief. 

The case pivots on the legal definition of what is considered a public nuisance. After Judge David Faber ruled narrowly on what defines a public nuisance, Cabell and Hunting lost their case against the companies. The Amici told the court in its brief that Faber’s decision was overly restrictive and inconsistent with West Virginia law.

“(The decision) prevents opioid distributors from being held responsible for the costs of abating the crisis they caused,” the Amici said in the brief. “And improvidently diminishes their duty to avert the further spread of the crisis to almost nothing.” 

The localities appealed the decision in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked  the state Supreme Court to define the legal reach and definition of a public nuisance.

The Cabell County Case needs a broad description to stay alive, much like what the state of West Virginia used in a separate suit.

“The court should answer the certified question in the affirmative, holding that West Virginia Common Law defines public nuisance to include the conditions caused by distribution of controlled substances,” the Amici said in the brief. 

The organizations represented in the brief are the National Association of Counties, the County Executive of America, the National League of Cities, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the West Virginia Sheriffs Association, the West Virginia Association of Counties, the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, and the West Virginia Municipal League. 

In the brief they said that a narrow definition would absolve major drug companies of their responsibility for creating an opioid epidemic.