Meet the West Virginia lawyer overseeing 400+ opioid lawsuits against drugmakers, distributors

Paul Farrell, an attorney from Huntington, W.Va., is leading one of the largest lawsuits in modern U.S. history, which combines more than 800 suits from cities and counties nationwide against drug manufacturers and distributors, according to Bloomberg.

Here are six things to know:

1. Mr. Farrell is one of the lead attorneys for this case, working alongside Joe Rice and Paul Hanly, who served as litigators for a $246 billion deal with the tobacco industry in 1998 — the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history, according to Bloomberg.

2. Mr. Farrell heads up a five-lawyer firm and legal consortium, which represents more than half of the municipalities suing drugmakers and distributors.

3. He grew up in West Virginia and watched his community transform into what Bloomberg calls "the opioid capital of the world."

"I have people my age that I know that are addicted to opioids," Mr. Farrell told Bloomberg. "I know people that have children in their early 20s that they have lost."

4. Mr. Farrell's argument for the lawsuit rests on a West Virginia public nuisance law meant to address complaints over common community issues like landfills or environmental waste. However, he is arguing opioid makers and wholesalers created a public nuisance with the opioid epidemic, and now local governments must spend millions of dollars to address it.

5. If the local cities, states and counties win the suit against the drug industry, they could receive up to $50 billion, according to one estimate cited by Bloomberg. Twenty-five percent of that would go the law firms — including Mr. Farrell's — representing the cases.

6. Mr. Farell did not share an estimate for a settlement amount, as the judge overseeing the case issued a gag order barring all lawyers from disclosing specific negotiation details.

More articles on opioids: 

10 congressional districts with the highest opioid prescribing rates
Mallinckrodt, Endo sue drug dealers & online marketplaces over illegal opioid sales: 7 things to know
Hospitals can cut opioid prescriptions by lowering EMR's pill default amount, study finds

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