Bexar County to seek $1 billion in first opioid trial in Texas

Trial set for October 2020 in Bexar County

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County plans to seek more than $1 billion in damages in the first opioid trial in Texas, County Judge Nelson Wolff said Tuesday.

Wolff hopes the trial will be held in the courtroom where he made the announcement.

"It will be a major endeavor, not unlike the tobacco case many years ago," he said.

The trial is scheduled for October 2020.

Wolff said it's important for Bexar County take the lead in the opioid lawsuit case against dozens of pharmaceutical companies because during the tobacco lawsuit cases in the late 1990s, money from the settlement first went to the states and what was leftover went to the counties.

"By being early first and up and going, we have a greater opportunity to bring the money here," Wolff said.

The proceeds from the lawsuit would fund treatment programs in Bexar County.

One program that could be funded is Casa Mia, which treats mothers and their babies suffering from opioid abuse. 

Casa Mia CEO Kevin Downey said the money is especially needed in Bexar County.

"We're always looking for support. Bexar County has the highest neonatal exposure to opioids of any county in the state. So this is a serious problem in San Antonio," Downey said.

Anyone interested in a referral to Casa Mia can call 210-549-4730.

Bexar County has the third highest rate of opioid-related overdoses in Texas.

Wolff said between 2001-2015, there have been 664 opioid-related deaths in the county. He said there were 1,369 emergency visits due to opioid overdoses in 2016-2017 and 2,325 babies were born to neonatal abstinence syndrome from 2009-2016. 

The lawsuit, which was filed by the county in May 2018, alleges fraud, misrepresentation, and deceptive trade practices by pharmaceutical manufacturers and providers.

The local law firm Phipps Deacon Purnell, PLLC is representing the county.

"The pharmaceutical companies misled patients, physicians and regulators about the risks and benefits of opioids to treat pain," said Martin J. Phipps, the law firm's managing partner. "The damages exceed $1 billion and we must hold these enormous multinational corporations accountable for their harm to our community in a Bexar County courtroom with a Bexar County jury."

Dallas County will also be among the first counties in the state to go to trial in the case.

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