City of Savannah files lawsuit against opioid makers


The City of Savannah is filing a civil lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, Mayor Eddie DeLoach announced on Wednesday.

The city has conducted an investigation into the allegedly deceptive marketing of prescription opioid painkillers by more than 20 drug manufacturers and distributors.The lawsuit alleges the company lied in marketing campaigns and was only focused on their bottom lines. The city calls it a “safety crisis.”

The City of Savannah is not the first. Both Chatham and Beaufort counties filed suits earlier this year.

“Like much of the nation, Savannah has felt the sting of the opioid crisis. We have grieved with each passing death, and suffered losses both here and throughout the State of Georgia as the promise that each life had in store was taken from us too soon due to prescription opioid abuse,” said Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach in a news release.

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, names as defendants some of the country’s largest drug manufacturers and their subsidiaries.

“It has affected tens of thousands if not millions of people. We don’t even know the far range of damages that have been done but we do that they are tremendous in other areas of the country,” District 4, Alderman Julian Miller said. “This lawsuit serves several purposes.”

The suit alleges these companies engaged in false and deceptive marketing, downplayed the risk of opioid addiction and unlawfully distributed them into Savannah without reporting or stopping suspicious orders.According to Miller, the companies distorted information that got people “hooked” on drugs and the damage spreads throughout the community.

“There is no doubt that drugs and addictions played a large part in crime in this community,” Miller said. Miller has experience has a former Public Information Officer for Savannah- Chatham Metro. He says during his five years, “so many of our cases involved some type of addiction or effect of drugs and alcohol.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Georgia’s opioid-related deaths jumped by 400 percent from 2001 to 2015. But, according to the lawsuit, drug makers were only worried about their profits.

Now, Miller says, they must be held accountable. “It’s a long-term process. Again the damages that were done cannot be undone, maybe you can get over them but the scars are still there,” Miller says.

The City seeks compensatory damages of more than $75,000 for its costs related to the opioid epidemic, and punitive damages from the defendants to deter defendants from engaging in such conduct in the future.

The city is represented by Brooks Stillwell and Jennifer Herman of the Office of the City Attorney,  John Suthers and Adam Harper of Suthers Law Firm in Savannah, and Joe Rice, Linda Singer, Lisa Saltzburg and Elizabeth Smith of Motley Rice LLC of Mt. Pleasant, SC and Washington, DC.

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