Daviess County Fiscal Court approved a motion last week to enter into a professional services contract with Hendy Johnson Vaughn Emery, PSC and Rhoads and Rhoads, PSC to take on opioid distributors. Daviess County will join other cities and counties in this multi-district litigation.
“As you know, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has an opioid epidemic,” said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly. “Most people in law enforcement here believe we don’t have so much an opioid problem. Although we have some of those issues, methamphetamine is the epidemic going on here in this community.”
The decision to participate in litigation against the opioid crisis in Kentucky would benefit Fiscal Court if the lawsuit came to favor their side.
“There is a group who has filed a lawsuit against the opioid distributors, and this group is out of Ohio, and it’s being served in Cleveland District Court, and we were asked to join that suit,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Fiscal Court had spent six months looking over the suit and chose local attorneys from Rhoades and Rhoades to represent the County due to the firm’s close proximity and availability to answer any questions that might come up.
People have asked Mattingly why Fiscal Court is participating in what Porter called a “multi-district litigation” instead of suing the opioid distributor themselves in order to get more money. Mattingly said Fiscal Court didn’t have the manpower by means of attorneys, nor did it have the funding to take on the opioid distributors alone.
“They’ll bring millions of dollars to the table — we don’t have millions of dollars,” he said. “I think we have a better shot here because the distributors — rather than wanting to deal with individual municipalities or county governments — would much rather deal with one person representing a large number of those folks.”
Mattingly said he wasn’t sure whether Fiscal Court would get any money out of the lawsuit, but that everything was being dealt with on a contingency basis. If the opioid distributors were to win, they’d get their costs back. If the distributors lose, they’ll lose most of the money they’ve put into the system, Mattingly said.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We can pull out of it anytime without any penalties.”
Porter said most opioid distributors involved in suits like this one have enough up-front monies paid that cover the costs and fees involved, and a portion of those monies can be paid to each of those on the other end of the suit.
“And then there’s a structure of payments being made over a certain period of time,” he said.
No monies have to be advanced by Fiscal Court, and nothing has to be paid upfront, in order to participate in this litigation, Mattingly added.
“It’s all paid out of whatever’s collected,” he said. “I would say they’re going to have to wait just like we would for whatever the distribution is.”