Maryville legal representation has officially signed a contract making it part of a class-action lawsuit against giant opioid producers and manufacturers, this just before attorneys general for four southern states announced a push for $48 billion in payouts to thousands of governmental entities.
Though Blount County legal representation was the first local entity to sign on to the lawsuit, Maryville followed months later after deciding the same firm representing the county would be most beneficial for the city as well.
Alcoa’s attorney Stephanie Coleman told The Daily Times after an Oct. 8 board of commissioners meeting the city was also considering entering into the suit and was aware of the route Maryville and the county were already taking.
Melanie Davis, attorney for Maryville, said in a phone interview that City Manager Greg McClain had approved the legal action and Davis signed a contract on Oct. 17.
The contract makes Maryville one of many plaintiffs represented by Alabama firm Friedman, Dazzio, Zulanas, & Bowling P.C. Bundling those plaintiffs together saves the many governmental entities who have suffered as a result of the opioid epidemic from having to file individually and manage the subsequent costs.
“The contract provides that we’re not going to be out any money,” Davis said. “They’re going to advance all of the costs ... there’s no way we’re going to lose money.”
There are 20 major drug companies on the case which was set for trial in Cleveland, Ohio, in October. Counties in Ohio received payouts totaling $250 million on Monday after a settlement from McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Teva Pharmaceutical.
Davis said that the city’s suit is against several companies including Purdue Pharma and is potentially more lucrative than other, more popular options.
“We just think ultimately the recovery is going this other route,” she said, noting that the bundle Maryville and Blount have joined is not part of a suit Tennessee’s attorney general wants to pursue.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and four other attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas responded to the multi-million dollar Ohio settlement in a Monday phone press conference, saying it was an important step forward. They then proposed their own $48 billion settlement against two opioid producers and five distributors.
Slatery said the state’s suit is not only seeking settlement money, but looking to change the companies’ practices through injunctions as well.
“Part of the problem is that we really haven’t known what’s going on,” Slatery said during the conference. “This set of injunctive terms basically outlines, this is what you must do, and it’s separate from what ... we want them to pay.”
But while the state’s representation may want big pharma to mend its ways, small governmental entities just want to recoup the resources and cost of having to manage the opioid epidemic.
Coleman and Davis have said discretion for how to spend the funds may be up to the city governments and local law enforcement leaders say the money can be used to make up for the hours and money spent dealing with things like overdoses.
Davis said she along with the other entities represented by the Alabama firm are now playing a waiting game.
But settlement may come sooner than expected.
“It does seem to be moving kind of fast,” Davis said, remarking on Monday settlement and the subsequent $48 billion proposal. But she’s being cautious as she represents Maryville’s stake in the game. She received a ‘giant’ box of documents regarding the settlement Slatery is working on, but said she will wait for legal advice from the Alabama firm on what to do with it.
“I don’t know what they’re going to tell me to do as far as that other lawsuit,” Davis said. “I don’t want to make it look like we’re trying to take out of too many pots. I just want to take out of the right number of pots.”
The question of what pots to take out of is a significant one for many public entities now jumping on the pharma suit wagon. Currently, with so many moving parts still in play, lawyers are still unsure on exactly which suit will result in the most money.