After suffering several fatalities and overdoses due to prescription opioid abuse, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, has retained Marc J. Bern & Partners to lead an action against pharmaceutical companies they believe are responsible for the crisis. The action is one of the first of its kind in the state; the county claims the defendants were aware of the addictive nature of certain medications but failed to warn the prescribers and patients.

The recent passing of a 24-year-old Scranton woman due to an overdose was the latest in a long line of preventable deaths and the breaking point for Lackawanna County officials. Marc J. Bern & Partners founding partner Marc J. Bern and senior partner Joseph Cappelli, along with co-counsel from O’Malley & Langan, recently filed suit on behalf of the county against 14 defendants, which include drug manufacturing and distribution companies like Johnson & Johnson and Teva, among others, and several individual physicians.

“We are honored to represent Lackawanna County in what is sure to be precedent-setting litigation. We’re reacting to a national epidemic on a local scale, so we know a lot of eyes will be on us and we are prepared for what will likely be a long legal battle,” said Bern. “For years, Lackawanna County officials have taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their citizens and to combat the companies’ deceptive marketing – but they cannot be everywhere all the time. And with each prescription opioid-related incident, the county incurs deep emotional and financial costs. Filing this important lawsuit is the first step in correcting this injustice.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, more than any year on record.

Marc J. Bern & Partners was featured in the 2016 edition of New York’s Leading Lawyers. The suit was filed with the Court Of Common Pleas in Lackawanna County on Sept. 25.