New Canaan, Darien to consider joining suit against opioid makers
NEW CANAAN — A new class action suit is taking shape in Connecticut that would hold accountable the makers of prescription opioids.
Headed by the mayor of Waterbury and other local leaders, with the help of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the suit would hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for aggressive marketing and the permeation of false information regarding the safety of prescription opioids and seek damages for those that have fallen victim to the scourge of opioids.
In Fairfield County, leaders of municipalities like Danbury and Ridgefield have stated their potential interest. In New Canaan, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III also suggested he was considering joining the suit.
“I would look favorably on joining something like that,” Mallozzi said, though he added he’d been away for a week and needed to better understand the details of the suit. “Just looking at the opioid issue, what CCM is doing there is the right thing.”
Mallozzi and the town of New Canaan rejoined the CCM in 2017 after several years not holding membership. Efforts like this, Mallozzi said, are why he encouraged the town to link back up with CCM.
Mallozzi also emphasized the impact of opioids on a town like New Canaan.
“How many lives have been affected here by opioid addiction? How many friends and family have lost children because of it?” Mallozzi said.
He estimated that seven members of the community had died as a result of opioids in the last six years. The exact number, Mallozzi said, is difficult to pin down because of the stigma surrounding prescription opioids and heroin, a more potent and less expensive opiate. In many cases, the parents of those afflicted are hesitant to speak up and provide a cause of death, Mallozzi said.
In July, Waterbury retained the New York law firm Simmons, Hanly, and Conroy, who will make a presentation to CCM — whose staff is helping to find co-litigants — in late August, after which point municipalities can officially join the suit. Simmons, Hanly and Conroy filed similar suits earlier this year on behalf of several New York counties.
Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she planned to attend the Aug. 31 informational meeting between the lawyers and CCM members in Waterbury.
“We have expressed our interest from the beginning. Town Attorney Wayne Fox and I are both information gathering,” Stevenson said. “I’m not saying we’re committed today, but we’re definitely interested in getting more information on the lawsuit and its potential outcomes.”
There were 917 overdose deaths in Connecticut, up 25 percent from 2015, many of which were the result of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more potent than heroin. Fentanyl deaths rose by 155 percent in 2016.
Stevenson also suggested that the numbers may not accurately represent the gravity of the situation, as many opioid and drug related deaths are reported as “accidental poisonings.”
“It would be more helpful to communities if alcohol/drug/opioid information was reported as such,” Stevenson said. “We consider the impact of opioids on our community to be substantial.”