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Publix Supermarket suing Cobb County over opioid litigation


A lawsuit was filed in Cobb Superior Court by Publix against Cobb County over the county government’s involvement in an opioid lawsuit. 

The suit alleges that the county improperly hired a trio of outside law firms to sue the supermarket chain over its distribution of prescription drugs. The suit says the county was “lured” into the opioid litigation by the firms’ “promises of a windfall,” and alleges the county violated multiple laws when it brought them on nearly five years ago.

“Cobb County’s hiring non-Georgia private lawyers to participate in complicated federal court litigation hundreds of miles away is all about money,” the new suit says. 

This is in reference to an initial lawsuit filed by Cobb in July 2018 against a number of drug manufacturers and pharmacies including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, CVS, Kroger and Walmart. It alleged the opioid crisis arose from “the opioid manufacturers’ deliberately deceptive marketing strategy to expand opioid use, together with the distributors’ equally deliberate efforts to evade restrictions on opioid distribution.” 

The suit broadened in March 2019 to include the Sackler family, which founded and owned Purdue Pharma, and additional firms including Publix. The suit alleged drugs sold by Publix — one of the county’s 10 largest employers — made up “a substantial market share” in Cobb.

The opioid suit went on to say, “Publix’s conduct thus directly caused the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history — the misuse, abuse, and over-prescription of opioids across this country, including in this jurisdiction.”

In Publix’s litigation, they say that even the Publix pharmacy in Cobb, which dispensed the highest number of opioids, doesn’t rank in the county’s top 35 distributors. However, the opioid litigation is not the main concern of Publix’s lawsuit against Cobb. The manner in which the county hired firms Simmons Hanly Conroy, Crueger Dickinson, and von Briesen & Roper is.

The litigation says county leaders improperly decided to hire the firms in an executive session with no public record, that the county improperly delegated the handling of the original opioid lawsuit to a private firm, and that the firms hold a conflict of interest in that they represent a number of jurisdictions across the country; thus, they cannot be expected to act solely in Cobb’s best interests.

The suit claims that per the contract, the firms will collectively receive 25% of the total settlement awarded to the county. Cobb County is declining to provide a copy of the contract with the three firms without an open records request.


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