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UK Law Professor Captures International Audience with Broadcast on Opioid Epidemic

June 22, 2017

Richard C. Ausness, Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Everett H. Metcalf, Jr. Professor of Law at University of Kentucky College of Law, recently participated in an international broadcast on "America's Opioid Nightmare," which aired in an edition of Business Daily on BBC World Service.

The broadcast, which aired on June 15, discussed America’s battle against opioid abuse – an epidemic that began to spread across the U.S. more than 20 years ago. Today, roughly 50,000 people die annually from opioid overdose in the U.S. To listen to the broadcast, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0558ks6.

When asked if pharmaceutical distributors could be held accountable for the opioid epidemic, Prof. Ausness replied that he was skeptical. “There are a couple of problems,” said Prof. Ausness. “The main one is that you have other actors involved, particularly the addicts themselves who are misusing the products, and so the drug companies will say it’s not our fault, it’s their fault. I don’t know if that will work or not."

He went on to say that with this type of litigation, most reach a settlement because they don’t really want to try these cases. “They don’t have to have a winning theory, they just have to have a plausible one,” he said.

Prof. Ausness was then asked when a line will be drawn, if the issue of who bears the blame will ever be resolved. His response: “Well, I don’t know if that will ever happen.” He concludes by saying, “There are a lot of companies out there that have acted badly and so they are prime targets for lawsuits of this sort.”

Listeners can also hear from the Mayor of Huntington, West Virginia, Prof. Angus Deaton of Princeton University, and Dr. Dwight Timothy Gammons, an addiction specialist in Detroit, Michigan.

Prof. Ausness joined the UK Law faculty in 1973. He currently teaches Property, Trusts & Estates and Products Liability. His other teaching interests include legal history, land use planning, water law and environmental law. In addition, he is a co-author of A Model Water Code (University of Florida Press 1973) with Frank Maloney and Scott Morris, as well as Florida Water Law (1979). Finally, Prof. Ausness has published more than 60 articles on various subjects, such as products liability, trusts and estates, property, torts, environmental law and water law.