On Feb. 5, 2018, the Sarasota City Commission unanimously voted to retain Bill Robertson, CEO and personal injury attorney, and Steven W. Teppler with the Abbott Law Group to represent the City of Sarasota in a lawsuit to recover damages related to the opioid epidemic.
The attorney team will file a lawsuit in federal court with the Middle District in Tampa, Fla. against as many as seven or more major pharmaceutical manufacturing companies and their distributors. The duo is taking the case on contingency, meaning the city will not incur any expenses unless recovered during the lawsuit.
“Our nation is in crisis and these pharmaceutical companies are putting profits above people by fueling the opioid epidemic with false claims and failure to disclose the long-term risks of these toxic drugs,” said Robertson. “Their conduct is fraudulent, unlawful and deceptive and municipalities have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to keep up with expenses related to this malfeasance.”
Lawsuits like these are not uncommon across the country, stemming from a nationwide health care crisis with far reaching financial, social and deadly consequences. Between 2003-07, approximately 1,400 individual lawsuits were filed in the U.S. with another 3,600 prepped for litigation.
During discovery in the previous litigation, it was revealed that manufacturers cited biased medical studies to support claims that opioid addiction was rare. These companies allegedly hired pain management experts and doctors to promote use of opioids to other doctors and provided kickbacks and other incentives to doctors to promote use to other doctors. Manufacturers also purportedly created and funded a medical-front group to publish and promote false research and information about the drugs and published articles stating that opioid use was non-addicting, among other fraudulent acts. Currently more than 70 states, cities and counties have filed lawsuits related to these claims.
“Damages to municipalities could add up to tens of millions of dollars,” said Teppler. “These firms grossly overstated the benefits of opioid therapy, leading to excessive collateral damage, including staggering costs for workers compensation, law enforcement and emergency services, relapse prevention and more.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sites more than 30,000 deaths annually nationwide from prescription opioids with prescription opioid sales topping $13 billion annually. Due to deceptive representations, governmental entities have paid exorbitant fees for prescription opioids themselves, in addition to huge amounts of money to combat the effects of these harmful substances.
“We have lost so many to overdose and addiction, which is largely the reason I began a career in public service after law school — to provide a better path for people here,” said Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody. “Our city has witnessed a pain pill epidemic that has led to dependence on street opiates like heroin when the supply of pills dried up. This lawsuit is an aggressive move to claw back some of the profit that pharmaceutical companies have made unscrupulously pedaling addiction in our community, and I fully support the effort.”
In 2016, Robertson and Teppler represented the City of Sarasota and pursued the oil spill claim against BP, recovering $3 million for the city.
About Bill Robertson
Celebrating his 36th year as a personal injury attorney, Bill Robertson is a fifth-generation Sarasota Attorney. Continuing in the tradition started by his great-grandfather and grandfather, who opened their practice here in 1925, Robertson is the CEO of The Robertson Law Firm and a personal injury attorney.
Robertson has been heavily involved in helping Florida businesses and cities fight back after the BP oil spill. He has helped clients secure more than $30 million in damages after filing 115 claims for hotels, real estate firms and other businesses along with the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton Beach. For the 15th year, he has received an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, the highest peer review rating in legal ability and ethical standards.
About Steven W. Teppler
Steven W. Teppler leads the Jacksonville-based Abbott Law Group’s electronic discovery and technology based litigation practice and frequently co-counsels with other attorneys on electronic discovery issues. He served as co-counsel with Kirk Pinkerton in Sarasota’s BP litigation.
Teppler has practiced law since 1981 and is admitted to the bars of New York, the District of Columbia, Florida and Illinois. He is also admitted into the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Second, Eleventh and District of Columbia Circuits, as well the U.S. Supreme Court. Teppler holds six patents in the field of content authentication and is the founder and CEO of a content authentication provider. He is an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad School of Law and at Ave Maria School of Law, where he teaches electronic discovery. Teppler also lectures nationwide on evolving theories of technology-oriented theories of liability and electronic discovery.