An opioid overdose lawsuit may be an option for California families whose loved one became addicted to opioids and died as a result. It is a well-documented fact that many people get hooked on these drugs after a doctor provides them with a prescription and when the prescription drugs no longer become available or work, they turn to street opioids like heroin. The problem has expanded into a nationwide epidemic – an epidemic many people claim was caused by the marketing tactics used by pharmaceuticals to convince people these medications were safe to use and by doctors who freely prescribed these painkillers to their patients. Grieving families may be able to seek compensation from the parties responsible for their loss with the help of a bad drug attorney.
If your loved one died as the result of an opioid overdose, contact Attorney Group to learn about your options. We offer free, no obligation consultations. We can help answer your questions, and if you choose to pursue a claim we can connect you with an affiliated opioid overdose lawyer who can assist you throughout the legal process.
The History of Opioids
While many modern prescriptions are created within the confines of a laboratory, opioids can be traced back to a natural substance found on the pod seed of a poppy – opium. It is unknown who first discovered opium, but the earliest reference to the drug is found in records belonging to the Sumerians from 3,400 B.C. according to Frontline. It was then introduced to the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians as a substance that produced a happy euphoric effect when it was smoked, and as a viable source of income when it was traded to other kingdoms.
It wasn’t till 460 B.C. that opium was found to have medicinal value and from that time, it was used by ancient doctors for the treatment of pain, female diseases and internal diseases. The first opioid developed from opium was morphine in 1803 and it soon became the primary medication prescribed to people for pain relief, especially for soldiers during the Civil War. Heroin was discovered in the late 1800s and then from the 1970s to the present day, pharmaceutical companies developed a string of natural and synthetic opioids including: OxyContin®, Vicodin®, Percocet®, Methadone, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.
Opioids and their Risk
Taking a medication is never without risk, but when it comes to opioids, the biggest risk is not the side effects of the drug, but addiction. The San Diego Addiction Treatment Center states that over 11,500 people were taken to California hospitals after overdosing on opioids and in 2014, overdoses on opioids led to 4,521 deaths in the state. While these numbers are nowhere near those of states on the East Coast, it is estimated that “25 percent of all prescriptions that are filled in California” are for opioids and the problem has grown to the extent that state officials have declared an opioid epidemic.
Once people develop an addiction to prescription opioids, they often turn to the street opioid, heroin, which is cheaper to obtain and has a more powerful effect on the human body. Heroin, which originally was used as a medical treatment, was declared illegal when The Heroin Act was passed in 1924 as a response to the increasing number of Americans who were becoming addicted to it. Today, heroin is often mixed with other substances by those who manufacture it, increasing the risk of overdose and death for people who inject it into their veins. The newest street opioid is fentanyl, a medication used by hospitals for the most extreme cases, and this synthetic opioid is so powerful that people have died upon using it for the first time.
Legal Actions Concerning Opioids
Since the mid-2000s, several lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of opioids and the companies that distribute them, and while many of these have settled out of courts, the number of legal actions filed continues to grow. The biggest settlement to-date involved Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin®, for $600 million after the U.S. Department of Justice discovered evidence that the company’s charts and data relating to the drug’s addictive qualities were falsified to give the impression that the risk of addiction was low.
In California, Santa Clara County and Orange County were the first communities to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, alleging the companies engaged in deceptive marketing practices that opened the door to overprescribing of opioids by doctors. The County of Santa Clara County News reports that the defendants listed in that suit have been seeking a dismissal, but in February 2018, the Orange County Superior Court denied the motion, giving the counties the green light to move forward with their case. That lawsuit has been followed by a new one, filed by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, who are seeking compensation from pharmacies, distributors and manufacturers of opioids for the economic damages caused by opioid addiction in the tribe’s communities.
Injured Patients May Be Entitled to Compensation
Product makers have a duty to provide safe products. If there are risks of harm associated with their products, they also must provide adequate warnings. If a product maker fails to fulfill this duty, it could be held liable in lawsuits for injuries that may result.
People injured by the fault of others may be eligible to recover money for:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
The families of those killed may be eligible to recover money for funeral expenses and the pain that comes with losing a loved one.