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City authorizes lawyer to go after 'Big Pharma'

Sims partners with New York law firm over opioid litigation

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PRINCETON —The city of Princeton is joining the legal fight against “Big Pharma” amid the opioid crisis.

During Monday’s regular meeting, council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a contingent fee engagement agreement with local attorney Melissa K. Sims and Sanders Phillips Grossman LLC of New York.

Sims spoke before the resolution was approved and said it’s a privilege to represent the place she calls home.

Sims decided to partner with the New York law firm in a federal multi-district litigation (MDL) after watching the first three cases be filed against “Big Pharma” a little over a year ago. Because the cases were public nuisance litigation on behalf of municipalities, it struck Sims’ interest, and she decided to dig deeper into the issue.

“I could not believe what happened to this public health crisis and how it got started,” she said.

Sims explained how manufacturers and distributors of opioids were involved in fraud marketing and lied to the Federal Drug Agency about how addictive their pills were.

“They said there was a one percent risk of addiction, but I think all of us here tonight know someone who has been affected by this crisis,” she said. “Opioids typically were only prescribed for people who had acute injury or end of life. They were not meant to be for someone who was a habitual user.”

According to Sims, manufacturers and distributors were supposed to red flag and stop shipments that were suspicious or for habitual users, but instead increased sale agents to sell more product.

Municipalities, counties, cities and states throughout the country are now banding together seeking litigation against the manufacturers and distributors.

Over the past year, Sims said, those three original cases have turned into more than 500 cases.

“Three cases weren’t going to make a difference, but over 500 cases will make a difference,” she said.

The MDL Sims is working for has been paneled in Cleveland where one judge is listening to all cases. Sims said the judge is looking to settle quickly.

“It will be settled for hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s what it’s going to take to break the back of this public health crisis,” she said.

Under Princeton’s agreement with Sims, she will work to ensure money is returned to the city to compensate past recovery and future costs needed for opioid treatment.

“Those costs should not be borne by taxpayers. Those costs should be borne by the companies that shirked their laws,” she said. “I want you to know you will have a strenuous advocate on behalf of the city of Princeton in this multi-district litigation.”