Metropolis desires to proceed opioid struggle by itself | Native

Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution banning the city from all state or federal opioid settlements.

This follows the state law passed in April laying out how those funds will be used – 85% of which would go back to the state.

City Attorney Carol Helton said 77 local governments in Indiana have sued and now have the option to opt out of a possible settlement. Instead, Fort Wayne will continue its own lawsuit against several opioid manufacturers and distributors.

“We got involved in this legal battle because we believe the opioid epidemic has had a major impact on our community,” she said during the council meeting on Tuesday. “We thought we should join the litigation to hold these parties accountable for their manufacturing and distribution and, you know, their role in the opioid crisis.”

That resolution, Helton said, will help Fort Wayne maximize litigation proceeds, which the city can then use to help those negatively affected by the opioid crisis. The city was advised by the national group of attorneys who represent it and other local governments in litigation, as well as the Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad.

Helton said several other legislatures like Ohio had spoken and negotiated with local governments to see what local needs there were before reaching an agreement on how to use potential funds. However, Indiana lawmakers “just passed law,” she said.

A non-opt-out would also prevent Fort Wayne from starting any further legal disputes against opioid manufacturers and distributors after July 1, which Glynn Hines, D-at large, later referred to as a “deal breaker”.

The city has 60 days to consider participating again after the decision is made. Helton said she did not foresee anything that she believes would be beneficial for maximizing proceeds to retire.

Many members asked questions prior to the vote, some of which were aimed at ensuring that leaving was the most profitable way to move forward. Helton assured them that she was sure, as state law left only 15% of the potential settlement in the Fort Wayne community.

A big payout is on the table, Helton said, but no agreements have been formalized.

One of the concerns Sharon Tucker, D-6th, had was whether the ongoing litigation was tying more and more funds to litigation costs. Helton said the city has not yet paid legal fees, and they will not be paid until the city has the proceeds from the case.

Russ Jehl, R-2nd, asked if there would be retaliation by the state in the future for other business deals, and later added that “the state does not have a good reputation for playing well in the sandpit with the municipalities”.

Helton said she couldn’t speak on the matter, but she knows many other local governments are also using the opt-out option that state lawmakers gave them when the law was passed.

The resolution was provisionally approved by all city council members present; Jason Arp, R-4th, was absent.

dfilchak@jg.net

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