Jefferson County Takes on Drugmakers in Opioid Crisis

Jefferson County attorney Theo Lawson. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission today hired four law firms to recoup expenses incurred because of the opioid crisis.

The county entered a legal services contract with Napoli Shkolnik, PPLC; Edmond, Lindsey & Hoffler, LLP; Perkins-Law, LLC, and Riley & Jackson PC.

The four firms were hired to file suit on Jefferson County’s behalf against manufacturers and distributors of opioids alleging they fraudulently marketed and distributed the drugs.

County attorney Theo Lawson said distributors and manufacturers of opioids have certain requirements from the Drug Enforcement Administration that they are supposed to follow. That includes reporting large amounts of sales and distribution.

Their failure to follow those rules has brought about great expenses for cities and counties, including the increased cost of staffing the coroner’s office, the cost of providing indigent residents with opioid addiction treatment, the increased cost of law enforcement, the cost of administering potential overdose treatment and the decrease in employable citizens as a result of their addiction.

“This is an action to recoup that and we’ve got some really good firms,” Lawson said. “Byron Perkins is here. Rod Edmond is out of Atlanta. Rod is a Georgetown law graduate and he’s also a Duke University medical doctor.

“Napoli represents Fulton County (Georgia) in their opioid law suit, Nassau County in New York (and) several counties and cities throughout the country,” the county attorney said. “They’re good folks and we expect good results.”

Dr. Gregory G. Davis, Jefferson County’s chief coroner/medical examiner, told media at Tuesday’s committee meeting that opioid deaths are tracking about as much as they were last year, which was about 150.

Jefferson County coroner Gregory G. Davis. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

“It’s not worse but it’s not getting any better,” he said. “I think the attack (on opioids) has been better but that’s countered by more powerful drugs that are being put in with heroin or substituted for heroin.

“It’s certainly a national crisis,” Davis continued. “The whole nation is having the same experience that we are. It’s heartbreaking to see people who have died, sometimes soon after they start their addiction, sometimes late. Their life has been consumed by this drug and it didn’t have to be that way. It breaks my heart.”


  • Opioids claimed 175,000 American lives from 1999 to 2013.
  • Opioid sales increased four-fold increase from 1999 to 2010 to parallel a more than four-fold increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths.
  • Prescription opioid abuse in the United States costs $55.7 billion annually, according to CDC and Prescription Drug Overdose data.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
  • 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.