WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County Commission was presented with two additional proposals from attorneys that wish to represent the county in an effort to hold wholesale drug distribution companies accountable for their alleged role in contributing to the opioid drug epidemic in southern W.Va.
Two attorneys attended Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Mingo County Commission to present proposals against wholesale prescription distribution companies.
Mark Mitchell, a local attorney in Williamson, presented the first proposal. “What these drug distributors have done in Mingo County was negligent and in my opinion, it was a crime. We have all been a witness to that crime. I see people standing in line at Suboxone clinics every day. The only way we are going to stop these distributors from dumping drugs in Mingo County, W.Va. is to hit them financially and I hope at some point they are hit with a criminal complaint as well. I would like to represent Mingo County against the drug distributors. I live here and I see it. To that end, I have assembled a team of attorney’s that I believe together would offer Mingo County the best hope of stopping the flow of drugs into the county,” Mitchell stated.
Mitchell explained that he has formed partnerships with Charleston attorney’s Rodney Jackson and Stuart Caldwell and is ready to take action against drug wholesale companies. “When the State of West Virginia was faced with the very issue that you all are faced with, who did they hire? They employed Rod Jackson and he successfully prosecuted the pill mill litigation against the very same companies that are looking to be sued by the county. Rod has agreed to work with me as part of a team of lawyers to represent Mingo County. Stuart Caldwell’s firm has also agreed to work with us,” Mitchell continued.
Mitchell then presented a copy of his proposal to the Mingo County Commission. The commission approved taking the proposal under consideration.
Following Mitchell’s proposal, attorney Charles “Rusty” Webb approached the commission to present a second proposal concerning the possibility of the county entering into a lawsuit against drug distribution companies. Webb had prepared a power point presentation for the commission which outlined statistics related to the local opioid epidemic.
Webb then discussed the county’s regional jail fees which remains one of the greatest liabilities to the county. Webb explained that if the county was awarded a settlement in the suit against drug distribution companies, it would help lower their jail bill and more funding could be used toward establishing drug recovery efforts. With the recent economic decline and loss of coal severance tax, the county has struggled to pay the regional jail bill. In fact, the county has been forced to dip into the county’s rainy day fund on two occasions to pay for the county’s bill to the regional jail. At Wednesday’s meeting, it was announced that the county’s regional jail bill for the month of the December was more than $44,000. “If I asked you what amount of incarceration in the regional jail were attributed to drugs, you would probably say 80 to 90 percent of your crime in Mingo County is related to drugs. When you get in their pocketbook, that is when you do the damage,” Webb stated.
Webb then discussed several class action lawsuits he has been involved with that have been successful. He also explained that he is currently representing several W.Va. cities in drug distribution lawsuits and explained the strategy he intends to take. “I already represent the city of Huntington, Logan, and Richwood and I expect to represent a half dozen other counties in addition, hopefully, to Mingo County. The point of the slide is that we are going to be one big team. I am probably going to move to consolidate it to Boone County. The reason I am going to consolidate it is because Judge Thompson has already been on the case. That is where the state case was. We are going to be one big legal team with the common purpose of beating these manufactures. We are going to merge with a team.”
The commission also took Webb’s proposal under consideration. In total, the commission has been presented four proposals in regard to drug distribution lawsuits. At previous meetings, the Truman Chafin Law Office presented a proposal as well as attorney Paul Ferrell. However, it was announced at Wednesday’s meeting that Farrell had withdrawn his firm’s proposal.
If the commission decides to pursue any of the proposals that have been presented to them, the decision will be decided upon at the next regular meeting scheduled Tuesday, February 21 and the chosen firm will be notified March 1.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)