ELLSWORTH — Hancock County has joined a national opioid lawsuit being handled in part by Maine Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti.
The Hancock County Commissioners voted in the affirmative at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting after a brief discussion.
“I fully support this because I think the jail is impacted tremendously by the opioid crisis,” said Commissioner Paul Paradis. “I see it every day in my establishment. I don’t know what the answer is, but something’s got to be done. It’s going to be expensive.”
County Administrator Scott Adkins said the county had received a pitch to join an earlier suit but declined for a few reasons.
With the previous opportunity to join, there was going to be a “not insignificant amount of work” for county staff and there was an “uncomfortableness about going after the local medical community,” Adkins said.
In this case, “The evidence piece is already done,” said Adkins. “This is settlement.”
Conti said last week that there are two separate settlements that have developed out of the national opioid litigation, which is pending in a federal district court in Ohio.
One settlement is with Johnson & Johnson and the other is with three major drug distributors that distributed opioids: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, Conti said.
“They distributed large amounts of opioids throughout this country with the theory being they should have known there were too many floating around,” the attorney said.
“All of these lawsuits were filed around the country,” she said. “They all got consolidated into one big case and assigned to a judge out in Ohio.”
“In order to reach a settlement — because these companies want to buy global peace — they want Maine to sign on and give a release of its claims against them,” said Conti. “The defendant companies have created this settlement that basically the more releases they get, the more peace they get, the more they’re willing to pay upfront. That’s why it’s important to us to get cities and towns signed on because that means more coming into the state.”