St. Johns County School District joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The St. Johns County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday morning to join a multi-district lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute opioids.

By joining the lawsuit, the St. Johns County School District would join several other school districts, like Miami-Dade, and would claim, if the lawsuit wins, money to “address the impact of this epidemic on students, teachers, other staff, and the taxpayers of this district.” According to district, they will not have to spend any money for joining the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which is being heard in Federal Court in the Northern District of Ohio, alleges that the manufacturers of prescription opioids grossly misrepresented the risks of long-term use of those drugs for people with chronic pain, and distributors failed to properly monitor suspicious orders of those prescription drugs - all of which contributed to the current opioid epidemic. Drug companies named in the suit include Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health Inc., and Walgreen Co.

The St. Johns County School Distirct claims that the opioid epidemic has resulted in addiction, overdoses, developmental disabilities in children, and death.

During the special school board meeting Tuesday morning, the school board voted to authorize hiring three law firms to file claims on behalf of the board in National Prescription Opiate Multi-District Litigation and related bankruptcy proceedings. Those law firms include Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. (Chicago), Mehri & Skalet, PLLC (Washington, D.C.) and Terrell Hogan Yegelwel, P.A. (Jacksonville).

“My only concern really is if for some reason there would be a tremendous burden put on the district and the staff as far as trying to collect records and provide data. I don’t think any of us really know what that’s going to entail, but I feel like if that was to happen, we could always make a decision to change course. So, otherwise, it’s kind of a no-brainer because I do think justice would be served to this school district if there were dollars provided to help us with children who suffer because of opiate use,” School Board Chair Patrick Canan said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 4,294 people died in the state of Florida due to an opioid overdose in 2019. In that same year, 120 Floridian babies experienced Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. This happens when babies are exposed to certain substances or medicines in the uterus before birth and they could go through drug withdrawal after birth. Children with NAS could experience developmental delays, motor problems, behavior and learning problems, speech and language problems, ear infections, and vision problems.

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a General Assignment Reporter for 104.5 WOKV.

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