County approves opioid litigatin

Piatt County board members decided last week that litigation should be the next step in fighting opioid addiction issues in the county.

The board voted unanimously on Nov. 29 to enter into an agreement with law firms Koester & Bradley and Meyers & Flowers to represent the county in “proposed litigation against the relevant wrongdoers,” which could include pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of a class of drugs that includes Vicodin and Oxycontin.

“I think it’s a good idea, because if it’s a big amount of money we need to come up with (to fight opioid addiction), then this is going to reimburse us,” said board member Renee Fruendt.

“There is cost involved (in fighting addition),” added County Board Chairman Randy Keith. “There are hours and hours and hours spent by our police force as they deal with this stuff, and the state’s attorney’s office deals with this stuff.”

The law firms will foot the cost of the litigation and receive 25 percent of the “total gross amount recovered” through the lawsuit.

Attorney Tom Koester told the board on Nov. 8 that counties are being encouraged to file lawsuits separately instead of combining in a class action suit so that they will have a say in how the money will be spent in their county.

“It’s a step forward in getting this stuff out of our communities. I’m 100 percent behind it,” said county board member Randy Shumard.

Fellow board member Bob Murrell said he trusts the counsel of State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades, who has expressed support for the lawsuit.

“I have a lot of respect for her (Rhoades), and if she says this is the best way then I’m for it,” said Murrell.

Under the agreement, the law firms will “represent the interests of Piatt County in any opioid litigation – including investigation, discovery, pre-trial negotiations, and, if necessary, trial. All the costs are assumed by the law firms.”

“Just by signing on and being a part of this, it’s showing the large pharmaceutical companies that we’re getting serious about this. We’re getting tired of losing our folks to this,” said Keith. “These medicines do well, too, but obviously there’s too many of them out there.”

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