Danville could file federal opioid lawsuit

Lawsuit could take two to three years to get through court

DANVILLE, Va. – Opioid overdose patients come in to the emergency room at Sovah Health's Danville campus on a weekly basis, according to interim emergency department director Patricia Scott.

"The ballpark figure would be several times a week," Scott said.

That's part of the reason Danville City Council members could vote next week to declare the opioid epidemic a public nuisance and prepare a lawsuit.

But, while most localities are filing opioid lawsuits in state court, Danville's city attorney, Clark Whitfield, said Wednesday the city's lawsuit would be filed in federal court.

"We can consider all of the state claims, if we want to, that the others have, but we also have the opportunity to present a RICO allegation in addition to all the other state claims and we just think we'll have more success in federal court than we would have in state court," Whitfield explained.

How much money the city would ask for in the lawsuit is unknown because the lawsuit hadn't been created.

Whitfield said it wouldn't be until after City Council members declare the opioid epidemic a public nuisance.

"There are going to be extensive interviews with public agencies and governmental agencies all over Danville to determine the size of the crisis," said Whitfield.

"I support any steps that are taken to combat opioids and I would support whatever the city of Danville needs to do," Scott said.

Whitfield estimates the lawsuit could be ready in January and would take two to three years to work its way through court.

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