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Locally grown lawyer takes lead in opioid lawsuit

Assistant State Attorney General Tad O’Neill, at the podium, speaks as a press conference in Seattle Thursday during which state officials announced a suit against opioid makers.

An attorney with a local background is one of the leading figures in the lawsuit filed Thursday against Big Pharma.

Tad Robinson O’Neill, a 1994 Mark Morris High School graduate, is the lead attorney for the Washington Attorney General’s Office in its attempt to hold opioid makers accountable for the national addiction crisis.

O’Neill is the son of Tom O’Neill, a longtime local attorney, and Dee O’Neill of Kelso.

According to his mother-in-law, former Robert Gray Elementary School Principal Jo Robinson, Tad O’Neill has been developing the case against Big Pharma for at least six months, crossing and crisscrossing the nation to coordinate the suit with other plaintiffs.

“He feels very passionately about this issue,” Robinson said, though he has not himself lost a friend of family member to drug addition.

His hometown, however, is in the grip of one of the worst opioid crisis in the state. Cowlitz County has the highest rate of opioid-related death rates in Washington, according to the state Department of Health. From 2012 to 2016, the county averaged 13.6 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 residents. In addition, nearly 50 percent of women who give birth in Cowlitz County have a substance abuse problem.

O’Neill could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

O’Neill, 41, got a degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis and earned his law degree at the University of Washington. Even when he was enrolled in Robert Gray, he was a bright student, Jo Robinson said.

His wife is Darby Robinson O’Neill, a gastroenterologist in Everett. The couple and their three daughters live in Seattle. Darby Robinson O’Neill’s father is Denny Robinson, the retired general manager of the Cowlitz PUD.

(Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that O'Neill graduated from Mark Morris High School in 1996. He graduated in 1994. We apologize for the error.)

Contact City Editor Andre Stepankowsky at 360-577-2520.

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