Meigs joins with state opioid lawsuit

By Sarah Hawley -

POMEROY — Meigs County is joining with others across the state in the “One Ohio” opioid plan related to the lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical supply chain participants, including opioid manufacturers.

As previously reported by The Daily Sentinel, the Meigs County Commissioners through retained counsel Ethan Vessels, of Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels of Marietta, Ohio, filed a lawsuit in November 2018.

Since that time, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine have announced the “One Ohio” opioid plan, allowing local governments to join together in the lawsuit which will be overseen by the state.

A deadline had been set for Friday, March 6 for local governments to join the state in the plan.

In a statement on Wednesday, Attorney General Yost stated, “Time is of the essence and March 6th was chosen as the date for Ohio’s communities to make a decision on whether to join the Governor and me in moving forward as One Ohio. We won’t shut the door on communities that need to take formal action after March 6th to join us, but the time to act is now.”

Yost continued, “Every day that passes is one more day that companies can settle with someone ahead of Ohio. Our risk goes up as we get closer to New York’s trial date of March 20. Now is the time for Ohio to come together and do what’s right for our citizens. One Ohio is the best choice for all Ohioans.”

During Thursday’s Meigs County Commissioner meeting, President of the Board Randy Smith presented the resolution to join the One Ohio plan and enter into the memorandum of understanding with the state on the matter.

A portion of the resolution, which was unanimously approved, states, “It is the opinion of the Board that Meigs County, Ohio, is likely to receive a more favorable resolution of the civil litigation in a more timely manner by joining forces with other local governments and the State of Ohio to address the opioid epidemic and the grave affects it has had on the citizens of the State of Ohio and Meigs County, Ohio.”

Smith explained that One Ohio allows for the Attorney General’s Office to represent the counties, cities and others local government agencies as one entity moving forward with the litigation and potential settlement.

Impacting the decision to move forward with joining the One Ohio plan, explained Smith, was the lack of communication and updates from the retained counsel on the matter. He explained that he had not heard from the attorney other than the one call he made to them.

Smith, who serves on the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) Board of Directors, said the matter of whether or not to join with the state on the lawsuit had been discussed at the CCAO, with the agency involved in drafting the resolutions and MOU for the plan.

A state-level board would be set up to oversee any settlement funds, with a portion of the funds to be allocated by that board, a smaller portion to the state and a portion to local governments who participate in the case. Smith said there is to be a “heavy” small county presence involved on the board.

Weighing into the decision to join in with the state is that the larger state level case will be able to carry more weight in settlements or potential trials that should the county pursue it alone, and there will be no attorney fees for the county as the Attorney General’s Office will be the attorney on the case, added Smith.

The county will be sending a letter to the law firm it previously retained explaining the decision and releasing them from representing the county.

© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

By Sarah Hawley

Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.

Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.