POMEROY — The Meigs County Commissioners have voted to move forward with an investigation and possible lawsuit regarding the drug epidemic, declaring the drug epidemic as a “serious public health and safety crisis” and a “public nuisance.”
The commissioner approved retaining the law firm of Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels, LLC of Marietta, Ohio, with the assistance of Marc J. Bern & Partners, LLP, of New York, New York.
President of the Board of Commissioners Randy Smith said that over the past year or more there have been around six different law firms or attorneys come through the office regarding the lawsuit.
Smith explained that when the attorneys were first coming to the office the lawsuit potential was fairly new, with the commissioners continuing to look into the matter and watching to see what others were doing regarding the situation.
Recently, the city of Marietta got on board with the lawsuit, hiring the same law firm the county has now entered a contract with.
“We couldn’t stand back and five years from now wish that we would have become involved when so many others have (joined the lawsuit),” said Smith.
The approved resolution on the matter states that it is “declaring that the unlawful distribution of prescription controlled substances has created a public nuisance and a serious public health and safety crisis for the citizens of Meigs County.”
The resolution states in part,
There exists a serious public health and safety crisis involving opioid abuse, addiction, morbidity, and mortality in Meigs County; and
The diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market causes or contributes to the serious public health and safety crisis involving opioid abuse, addiction, morbidity, and mortality in Meigs County; and
The Meigs County Commission has expended, is expending, and will continue to expend in the future County public funds to respond to the serious public health and safety crisis involving opioid abuse, addiction, morbidity, and mortality in Meigs County; and
The Meigs County Commission has received information that indicates that the manufacturers and wholesale distributors of controlled substances in Meigs County may have violated Federal laws and regulations that were enacted to prevent the diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market; and
The citizens of Meigs County will benefit from the retention of special outside counsel along with their County attorney the Meigs County Prosecutor to investigate and pursue, if appropriate, County claims against the manufacturers and wholesale distributors of controlled substances in Meigs County, on a contingent fee basis, wherein there is no attorney fee if there is no recovery and the County shall not be responsible for the costs of litigation regardless of the outcome of any litigation.
The resolution hires the law firms “to investigate and, if appropriate, pursue all civil remedies which may be afforded under law as against the manufacturers and wholesale distributors in the chain of distribution of controlled substances who have caused or contributed to the public nuisance and serious public health and safety crisis involving opioid abuse, addiction, morbidity, and mortality in Meigs County.”
The fees for the contract contingent upon the outcome of the potential case, with no cost to the county if there is no monetary award in the case.
Similar actions were taken in 2017 in both Mason and Gallia counties, according to previous Ohio Valley Publishing reports.
According to recent Associated Press reports, there are more than 1,000 cases filed by local and state governments against the industry in federal courts.
The cases have been consolidated under U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. He is pushing the companies and governments to reach a settlement, but also has scheduled trials for the case from Summit County and some other places for next year. They would serve as test cases for rulings in other lawsuits.