CADILLAC — In February 2018 Wexford County was the 35th municipality in the state to join a growing list of governmental entities nationwide seeking compensation from drug manufacturers as a result of the opioid epidemic.
On Wednesday, the board of commissioners will be revisiting that discussion to see if it wants to remain in the litigation.
Recently, Wexford County Administrator Janet Koch had a conference call with two of the attorneys representing the county’s interest in the opioid litigation, Tim Smith and Mark Bernstein. Both noted this particular litigation is representing half the population in the state. The firms of Weitz and Luxenberg PC, the Sam Bernstein Law Firm and Smith and Johnson Attorneys are acting as special counsel to represent the interests of Wexford County in the litigation.
The purpose of the phone call was to provide information about the pros and cons of remaining in the negotiation class, according to information within the packet for Wednesday’s board of commissioners meeting. If the county takes no action, it would remain in the negotiation class. The deadline, however, to opt-out is Nov. 22.
The negotiation class was created to facilitate settlement discussions with defendants in the opioid litigation, the information in the commissioners’ packet said. The defendants included manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and the Sackler family who are the owners of Purdue Pharma. During the recent phone call, both Smith and Bernstein told Koch that remaining in the negotiation class is the most efficient way to settle the litigation and the only reason the county should opt-out is if it feels it would gain a better settlement by going to the trial itself.
Koch said there is no need for the commissioners to take any action to stay in the negotiation class, but with four new members on the board since the original decision was made it makes sense to formally confirm and clarify its intentions. The executive committee approved making the recommendation to have the full board approve a motion to remain in the negotiation class.
Tim Smith, of Smith and Johnson Attorneys, presented information to the full board in February 2018 to explain the reasons all municipalities would file suit against the pharmaceutical companies. It was also explained that the litigation is not a “class action‘ lawsuit.
During his 2018 presentation, Smith said the county would not have to pay any money until and only if a settlement was reached. He also told the board that while it produces monetary relief, it also would provide injunctive relief via a court order.
The Wexford County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Commissioners Room on the third floor of the Wexford County Courthouse, 437 E. Division St.