Shelby County proposes suing drug companies for opioid epidemic

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County is considering filing a lawsuit against drug manufacturers.

Commissioners Terry Roland and Reginald Milton said opioid overdoses are costing Shelby County millions of dollars. Roland and Milton said the drug companies are to blame, because they downplayed the risks of the drugs.

"It's a drain on the family; it's a drain on our resources here," Roland said. "It touches everybody in Shelby County, one way or the other."

Recent Tennessee numbers show the total number of opioid overdoses continues to increase in Shelby County.

"It's just now an issue starting to capture the attention of public officials," Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said.

During Wednesday's committee meeting, the proposed lawsuit against the drug companies made it back on the agenda.

A Maryland attorney, who has experience with these type of lawsuits, gave a presentation to the committee supporting the idea of suing the drug companies responsible.

Luttrell told commissioners the opioid epidemic was a top discussion at a recent conference he attended in Washington D.C.

He said he put together a team to examine how health departments across America are handling the epidemic and to develop a county education campaign. He also said his office is interested in opening up the bidding process to law firms that may be willing to represent the county in any potential litigation.

"There are legitimate businesses that have overstepped the lines and gotten us into the trouble that we are [in]," Luttrell said.

At this time, there's no firm timeline for when or if the lawsuit will proceed.

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