Clark County files lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, wholesalers

Published Date

Vancouver, Wash. – Clark County today filed a lawsuit in federal court against pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers that manufacture, distribute, and sell prescription opioids.

With the filing, Clark County joins more than 400 jurisdictions nationwide that seek to hold the companies accountable for harm opioid addiction has done in their communities and recover public costs.

The lawsuit contends the drug manufacturers contributed to the opioid crisis by deliberately providing false and misleading information to doctors and patients about the safety of prescription opioids.

The rise of prescription opioids in Clark County was followed closely by a dramatic rise in heroin use, bringing a great emotional and financial toll to the community.

  • In the last two years, opioid use caused more deaths in the county than traffic accidents. Between 2014 and 2017, there were 91 opioid-related deaths that did not involve heroin.
  • Between 2002-04 and 2011-13, publicly funded treatment admission involving opioids grew 246 percent.
  • The Clark County Sheriff’s Office estimates it has spent more than $5.5 million responding to the crisis in the last three years.
  • Between 2015 and 2017, property loss to victims arising from opioid-related suspects is estimated to be more than $1 million annually.

“The increased use of opioids over the last 20 years has had a devastating effect on our community,” said Marc Boldt, Clark County Council Chair. “It’s time to hold these drug companies accountable and take steps to reverse this disturbing trend.”

Attorneys with the Seattle-based law firm of Keller Rohrback filed the lawsuit on behalf of Clark County. The firm, hired on a contingency-fee basis, has filed similar lawsuits on behalf of King, Skagit, Pierce and Thurston counties and the cities of Tacoma, Mount Vernon, Burlington and Sedro-Wooley. 

Emily Sheldrick, Clark County’s Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, said the complaint alleges the defendants violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO. In addition, the suit claims the defendants’ conduct constitutes a public nuisance, negligence, gross negligence, and unjust enrichment under Washington law.

Emily Sheldrick
Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
Prosecuting Attorney's Office