County board wants ordinance declaring opioid crisis a public nuisance


Palm Beach County commissioners have directed County Attorney Denise Nieman to draft an ordinance declaring the opioids epidemic a public nuisance and making clear the county’s ability to recover money it is spending combating the crisis.

The county filed suit last week against 29 drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, alleging that their negligence, fraud and deceptive marketing practices have contributed to the epidemic.

»RELATED: The latest in Florida political news

Each of the firms reached by The Palm Beach Post for comment about the suit either denied the county’s allegations or refused to comment.

Nieman said her office expects to have a draft ordinance ready for commissioners to consider during their May 1 meeting. Final adoption could come when they meet again on May 15.

“The purpose of the ordinance is to declare the opioid epidemic a public nuisance and to provide a mechanism for Palm Beach County to recover taxpayer’s costs incurred as a result of this epidemic,” Nieman told The Post.

The suit alleges that the costs of the epidemic have been steep and have touched on a variety of areas, including foster care, health care and law enforcement.

Last year, the county set aside $3 million to combat the epidemic. Some of that money was to boost staffing at the county’s Medical Examiner’s Office, which has been deluged with work from overdose deaths.

Including a listing of the 29 people and firms the county is suing, the county’s filing is 266 pages long.

Two of the firms representing the county, The Ferraro Law Firm of Miami and Napoli Shkolnik of New York, prepared an eight-page summary of the county’s filing for commissioners.

That summary spells out what the county wants: civil penalties, treble damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys fees and court costs.

The summary also groups the defendants and lays out the county’s allegations against them.

Distributors and pharmacies are alleged to have “caused injury to the county and its citizens” by committing a variety of misdeeds, including “failing to report suspicious orders as required by law and “dispensing, supplying and/or selling prescription opioids without adequate safeguards to prevent diversion.”

Allegations against a second group of defendants, manufacturers, include:

  • “Falsely and fraudulently marketing opioids pain medications as safe and non-addictive.”
  • “Failing to perform proper long term studies regarding the effects of their drugs.”
  • “Generally, creating a false perception of the safety and efficacy of opioids in the medical community.”

The summary of the lawsuit says defendants violated Medicaid/social welfare law as well as Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. It also accuses the defendants of committing fraud and negligence and unjustly enriching themselves.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Florida poll: Scott leads Nelson; Trump approval 53%; most oppose family separations
Florida poll: Scott leads Nelson; Trump approval 53%; most oppose family separations

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post) Likely Florida voters favor Gov. Rick Scott over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by a 46-to-41 percent margin in their nationally watched U.S. Senate contest, according to a new online poll for CBS...
Ron DeSantis opens $12 million TV ad campaign, highlights Trump support
Ron DeSantis opens $12 million TV ad campaign, highlights Trump support

New TV ad for Republican Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign highlights his support from President Donald Trump. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has launched the TV phase of his Republican campaign for Florida governor with a 30-second spot that touts his biography and conservative credentials and, in a mild surprise, waits a...
Is Glenn Beck’s network collapsing? He walked out of a CNN interview when asked.
Is Glenn Beck’s network collapsing? He walked out of a CNN interview when asked.

There was a time, a rather long time, when it seemed that Glenn Beck would never not have something to say.  He drew massive audiences to Fox News a decade ago, when he rambled for hours about conspiracy theories in which a Jewish billionaire controlled the world, and coded Bible messages revealed that Muslims sought the Antichrist.  And...
In speech at Trump-related event, Corey Stewart says he disavows racism, bigotry
In speech at Trump-related event, Corey Stewart says he disavows racism, bigotry

In his first major speech since winning Virginia's Republican Senate primary, Corey Stewart faced a friendly crowd in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, promising to "end the scourge of illegal immigration" while also defending himself against charges of bigotry and racism.  Fresh from his June 12 primary victory over two opponents, including...
Trump wades into more GOP contests, backs an incumbent who slammed him for ‘Access Hollywood’ tape
Trump wades into more GOP contests, backs an incumbent who slammed him for ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

President Donald Trump has offered his support to a pair of contested Republicans in Alabama and Florida, endorsing a congressional candidate who was highly critical of Trump's alleged sexual improprieties and a gubernatorial candidate who is trailing in the polls.  In Friday morning tweets, Trump announced his backing for Rep. Martha Roby of...
More Stories