By: Nichelle Cobb

The Board of County Commissioners held their regular Public Meeting on Tuesday February 28th. The informational meeting included an agenda full of future plans and recommendations for the city of Tallahassee. Specifically, item 12 was pulled from the agenda to discuss the Consideration to Institute Litigation Regarding Opioid Epidemic

This item was brought for review and approval by County Attorney Herbert W. A. Thiele. The purpose of this item was to seek the Board’s direction on whether to institute litigation regarding the current opioid epidemic.

According to Attorney Thiele, “Hundreds of States, Counties, and Cities across the Country have brought litigation against the manufacturers, distributors, and even pharmacies for claims regarding opioid pain medications.” During 2017 Leon County was approached by many law firms or teams of firms seeking to represent Leon County in filing a lawsuit either in State or Federal Court making similar allegations about the manufacturers and distributors.  The causes of action have included: Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Public, Nuisance, Fraud, Unjust Enrichment, and Negligence.

Furthermore, some lawsuits have been filed in some State Court’s and in Federal Courts. It is alleged that local governments, and, county governments, across the country have spent and continue to spend taxpayer dollars on employee costs, regarding stopping the opioid epidemic. Commissioner Bill Proctor said, “We don’t want to spend thousands and medical fees and not be able to recover from it.” Proctor sincerely expressed his concerned with litigation because if it is filed and turns out to be unsuccessful, then Leon County could end up owing an undeterminable amount of costs.

Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley spoke out in support of Leon County pursuing litigation for this issue. “I’m not usually a fan of litigation for no reason, but in this case, it seems reasonable.” The opioid epidemic is a serious issue and has been getting national attention for several months. Although their may not be a lot of well known cases in Leon county, Commissioner Lindley explained that it may be necessary for a process of legal action to be created, to combat problems that may arise in the future.

While bringing forth this item Attorney Theile recommended option four, as a solution which happens to be “Board Decision.” However, Commissioner Lindley recommended option two, which requires instruction for the Leon County Attorney’s Office, along with County Administration to issue a Request for Proposal. The proposal will be for the opioid litigation outside counsel to bring back to the Board a “short list” for further consideration.

Photo Credit: Veterans Health Administration

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