*What’s the connection between Jake Rutledge and Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis?
Jake is a brand-new lawyer, a recent law school graduate. His brother has just died of on opioid overdose, and when Jake returns to his West Virginia hometown of Oakley, he discovers that opioid addiction has devastated the community. This is what drives him to take on the country’s pharmaceutical companies – to hold them accountable for this widespread opioid abuse. Jake realizes that if he wants to succeed, he needs a seasoned pro — like Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis – on his side. Deke is a partner at one of the country’s most powerful law firms, and is well-known for his winning tactics against corporate wrong-doers. Jake coaxes Deke to visit Oakley to see first-hand why the once thriving town is now called Zombieland. Deke is overwhelmed by the devastation and agrees to join forces with Jake.
*Why is Deke reluctant to take the case from Jake?
Deke has more work than he can handle, but Jake reminds him of what it was like to be a young trial lawyer on a mission. Deke has gone up against Big Tobacco, and nothing since has motivated him as much as this opioid case. It the same kind of life-and-death consequences.
*What’s Jake’s initial strategy against the Big Pharma companies?
Initially, Jake wanted to bring a case in state court on behalf of the individuals addicted to opioids.
*What can you tell us about Deke’s legal strategy against Big Pharma?
Deke’s strategy is to represent counties that have suffered financial losses due to opioid addiction. He personalized the deaths, beyond the numbers, by displaying photographs of 117 people who died in a single day because of opioids. And he presents a series of maps, beginning in 1999 showing drug poisoning mortality data in the country, with death rate going from dark blue to dark red. With each passing year, the complexion of the map changes, with more and more red popping up – as if the graphics were bleeding out for all to see. Deke then demonstrates precisely how Big Pharma brought about this massive abuse of opioids.
*What interesting facts did you learn while researching for Law & Addiction?
When I was first approached about representing plaintiffs in an action against the major corporate opioid distributors, I knew little about the opioid epidemic. As I write these words, somewhere in America an individual is dying of a drug overdose. During the next twenty-four hours, there will be at least 115 deaths from the same cause. In 2017, more than 72,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose. To put that in perspective, during our seventeen-year involvement in the Vietnam War, there was a total of 58,220 American casualties.
The more I discovered, the more outraged I became. The opioid crisis didn’t occur as some kind of happenstance, but as a direct result of corporate greed. My legal team has documented these claims . . . and more. We have roomfuls of paperwork showing that these distributors knowingly and willfully opened Pandora’s Box, and the evils and misery that sprang out of that box are still plaguing our society.
My hope in writing this fictional account was to both edify and entertain. I wanted to provide readers with a front-row account of this epidemic, but not bludgeon them in the process. While I didn’t try to gloss over the human suffering, I still remain a believer in the power of the human spirit to prevail. At the same time, I am hopeful about getting meaningful justice out of this terrible and sad epidemic caused by corporate greed. I hope this novel does spark outrage in readers. As a nation, we need to be outraged.
One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.
When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother’s death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town’s demise parallels his brother’s.
Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet’s nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake’s age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it’s too late.
Mike Papantonio is a senior partner of Levin Papantonio, one of the largest plaintiffs’ law firms in America, that has handled thousands of cases throughout the nation involving pharmaceutical drug litigation, Florida tobacco litigation, litigation for asbestos-related health damage, securities fraud actions, and other mass tort cases. “Pap” has received dozens of multimillion dollar verdicts on behalf of victims of corporate corruption.
Papantonio is one of the youngest attorneys to have been inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. In 2012 Papantonio became President of the National Trial Lawyers Association, one of the largest trial lawyer organizations in America. For his trial work on behalf of consumers, Papantonio has received some of the most prestigious awards reserved by the Public Justice Foundation, The American Association for Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers Association.
Papantonio is an author of four motivational books for lawyers. He is also co-author of Air America: The Playbook, a New York Times Political Best Seller.
Papantonio is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Ring of Fire” along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Sam Seder. Papantonio has conducted hundreds of recorded interviews with guests, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, Howard Zinn, Arianna Huffington, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bernie Sanders, David Crosby, Merle Haggard, Morgan Spurlock, John Edwards, Bill Moyers, Rickie Lee Jones, Alanis Morissette, Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Henry Rollins, Ted Sorensen, and Elizabeth Kucinich. His role on “Ring of Fire” is featured in the movie, “Jesus Camp,” which was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
Papantonio is also a political commentator who frequently appears on MSNBC, Free Speech TV, RT America Network, and Fox News.
Papantonio is married and has one daughter. He is an avid scuba diver and often dives on the Emerald Coast.