Montmorency tentatively joins drug lawsuit

ATLANTA — The Montmorency County Board of Commissioners tentatively agreed to join a lawsuit to fight the epidemic against drugs.

Timothy Smith of Smith & Johnson Professional Corporations in Traverse City talked to the board about joining the lawsuit to fight the epidemic against drugs. There is no cost for the county to join and there currently are over 100 different counties across the country joined in the lawsuit.

“The beauty of this litigation is that this is the county’s own lawsuit and it is your case versus big pharmaceuticals,” Smith said, “You have a say in every aspect and every phase of the case and when it’s successful and when those funds come in, they are yours to use as you see fit in the county.”

Smith told the board he would like the county to file to join the lawsuit by Jan. 8 in order to have its voice be heard during the first conference on Jan. 9.

“I think it’s important that the county’s voice is heard at the conference,” he said. “If the county elects to get involved, they should do it sooner rather than later. The main reason is that if you wait, the look back on calculations goes back on the day of filing.”

The county can go all the way back to 2013 and calculate the expenses the county has spent while dealing with the drug epidemic. Smith said if the county waits a year, it would lose the calculations from 2013 and that could be a lot of money.

“The different causes of action in the lawsuit allows a county to look back two, three, or four years and calculate the money actually spent on the drug epidemic and then look forward as well,” Smith said. “There’s no risk to the county because you’re not putting any money up front into this.”

Every client that agrees to joining the lawsuit will have its own damages team assigned.

“We anticipate that between now and July, 25 to 40 hours of your time will be needed,” Smith said. “Every county is different because some will have their own EMS services or own medical examiners. Every county is different, but within the 25 to 40 hours, we can put together a damaged calculation that will be required to move the case forward. It’s not labor intensive.”

Montmorency County has been hit hard by the epidemic when looking into the data, according to Smith.

“What we are finding is that in the northern counties, the ones that I represent, are some of the hardest hit counties with the epidemic,” he said. “If Montmorency County decides to join, the county’s voice will not get lost.”

Vice Chair Stacy Carroll said joining the lawsuit is a win-win for the county.

“In the end, we might get something or we might not, but in the end, if it stops the drugs coming in,” she said. “It’s horrifying.”

There is a possibility for the county to back out of the lawsuit if it decides to join. The county wouldn’t be able to rejoin the lawsuit if it does decide to back out.

After discussion, the board decided to schedule a meeting on Jan. 3 to discuss more about joining the lawsuit before officially filing to join.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.