Local opioid case: One for the history books

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) In a small 1940's courtroom: a big case pitting the City of Reno and Washoe County against our country's opioid manufacturers like Purdue, along with distributors like McKesson.

At stake, money spent by local municipalities to help contain and treat the opioid epidemic.

According to a DEA data base, in Washoe County from 2006 to 2012, more than 133,000,000 prescription pain pills were distributed.

That is 46 pills for every man woman and child living here.

Attorney for the City of Reno, Robert Eglet, says there's more to this case than just pill popping.

“Where is it going?” asks Eglet. “So there has to be, the only explanation is, it is going from the legal market into the elicit market, how that is occurring we don't know yet. I suspect we are going to find out,” he says.

That is only part of the case.

Because the cost of a human life, and the cost to save that life also has a price tag; cities and counties throughout the state will all be trying to recoup the costs of hospital treatment, emergency care, court costs, police and fire response, to name just a few.

The state of Nevada too has its own case where they will try to get reimbursed for Medicaid costs.

While it seems logical to bundle all of these cases into one, Eglet says it can't be done that way.

“The damages are different,” he says. “The damages that the state has versus the City of Reno, versus Clark County or Las Vegas, or Henderson or North Las Vegas or any other counties are different,” says Eglet.

Eglet's firm represents the lion's share of municipalities and the state in these opioid lawsuits.

In Judge Barry Breslow's courtroom today, guidelines were discussed on how this case would proceed.

Once underway within the next two years, with evidence and testimony and two dozen defendants it could take up to seven months to try.

Such a case in Clark County is several steps ahead of the one here in Washoe County.

But that has been put on hold, as the defendants have appealed to Nevada's Supreme Court saying municipalities do not have standing, and cannot bring suits like this in district court.

No one can predict when the state supreme court will rule on the Clark County opioid case.

Judge Breslow says nevertheless, the case in his courtroom will proceed and won’t wait for that decision.

Depending upon the outcome, local residents all over the state could serve on local juries and discover the actual financial, physical and emotional toll the opioid epidemic has had on their communities.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019