MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee City Attorney Chris Smith says for the first time in Wisconsin, he along with other city attorneys have jointly filed 11 state lawsuits against 20 different pharmaceutical companies for the role they say they played in convincing the medical community that opioids were "not only safe and non-addictive but that the best treatment for addiction was more opioids."
"This is a local problem this is happening here and they should answer for it here. These defendants have a history and a pattern and a practice And have spent enormous sums of money putting out the idea that opioids are not addictive," said Smith.
Communities involved in the lawsuit include South Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, West Allis, Greenfield, Franklin, Oak Creek, Cudahy, Village of Mount Pleasant, Union Grove, Yorkville, and Sturtevant. Areas that attorneys say have been hit hard by the opioid pandemic.
"These cities and villages have spent enormous resources on dealing with and combating the opioid abuse problem," said Smith.
According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, in 2020, the County saw 545 opioid-related deaths. That's up from the 418 opioid deaths that occurred in 2019, and the 305 opioid-related deaths that took place in 2018.
"Hundreds of thousands of deaths all because of the over-prescription of opioids," said Smith.
That's why these local communities are now seeking to recover all damages sustained as a result of the pharmaceutical companies' actions and hold them responsible.
"This is the new avenue to say to these defendants you need to throw your hat in the ring to help with this abuse problem," said Smith.
Attorneys say the next to follow will include serving the defendants by giving them the appropriate notice that the lawsuit has been filed within the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, and then to hopefully get a trial as soon as possible.