<h1>The Greenbrier County Commission agreed to participate in a lawsuit to fight against the opioid crisis that has plagued municipalities and counties all across the country.<\/h1>\r\nAt the Tuesday night, June 26, meeting, the commissioners heard a presentation by attorney Ed Hill requesting the county join a lawsuit filing resolved to hold those industries accountable for having abused their power.\r\n\r\nHill described the plague of opioids that are awash throughout the country as a \u201ccreated\u201d epidemic by the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids that \u201cgenerates a population physically and psychologically dependent.\u201d Hill said, \u201cThere\u2019s not a county nor even a family that\u2019s not affected by this epidemic.\u201d As an pertinent example, in a six-year period, 780 million pills were distributed in West Virginia. With a population of approximately 1.8 million people, that would mean an average of 433 pills per West Virginian, Hill said.\r\n\r\nThe manufacturers and distributors have repeatedly been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for failing to report suspicious drug orders, despite a gate-keeping system implemented to hold these industries responsible. There are 800 registered wholesale drug distributors, of which 85 percent market share is owned by the Big Three (McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.), generating an annual revenue of over $100 billion. With so much money to gain, Hill said, they ignored their responsibility. Accountability \u201cwas simply not done.\u201d\r\n\r\nHill phrased the goal of the lawsuit while at trial in this way: \u201cWhat will it take to put your community and its citizens back into the position it was in before the opioid crisis began - how much will it cost to clean up the mess?\u201d If the lawsuit is won, the funds received are recommended to cover three broad areas: 1) education in the school systems that shows \u201cthe pills in their parents\u2019 cupboards are just as dangerous as a heroin needle,\u201d 2) support to law enforcement and jailing, and 3) funding for health care and additional addiction recovery facilities to rehabilitate the community.\r\n\r\nHill\u2019s law firm, Hill Peterson Harper Bee & Dietzler PLLC out of Charleston, WV, is one of a six law firm consortium handling this suit. \u201cIf there is no recovery,\u201d Hill said, \u201cthen there is no fee.\u201d The cost to the county is a 25-percent contingency fee, with a cap limiting expenses to 10-percent over the fee. At worst, this means the lawsuit would cost the county 35 percent of any funds received in a settlement or payout, and would cost the county nothing up front and nothing if the lawsuit fails. Hill said damages, if awarded, will include punitive damages, meaning damages exceeding simple compensation awarded to punish the defendants.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis consortium was not cobbled together to fight a single battle,\u201d reads a pamphlet Hill presented to the commission. \u201cRecognizing that the target defendants are some of the richest corporations in the country, we are prepared to go the distance and hold them accountable.\u201d\r\n\r\nA total of 10 West Virginia counties are included in the filing, he said. \u201cThose not included will be left in the dust.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommissioner Woody Hanna credited Commissioner Lowell Rose with being the driving \u201cnudge\u201d for the commission to look into a lawsuit to attempt to recoup county costs related to this problem, including emergency and police services, jail expenses, costs to courts, not to mention clean-up efforts, educating the public and providing facilities to treat addicts. \u201cIt\u2019s the number one drain on the county,\u201d said Rose, amounting to about $700,000 a year.\r\n\r\nHe stated he had two goals he hoped would result from the lawsuit: 1) to help those who want to recover from addiction, and 2) prosecution. \u201cTo go after distributors, the dealers, the people who bring drugs into the county. That\u2019s what I want to get out of this.\u201d\r\n\r\nHill said the suit will join several multi-district litigation cases (MDL) with one judge to preside over all, in a process called a bellweather trial. The first trial date, he said, is set for March of 2019.\r\n\r\nRobert Frank, a Lewisburg trial attorney, explained that bellweather trials are most efficient. In a MDL, those cases that are most representative of all others are chosen, so both defendant attorneys and prosecutors can understand how juries will respond. \u201cIn this way, both sides understand the case,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nFrank, who affirmed that the attorneys working on the suit are the \u201cright group to help this community,\u201d went on to say, \u201cThe drug problem in this town [Lewisburg] is so bad that any lawyer who has a license\u2026 is expected to step up, and represent folks because of this crisis.\u201d\r\n\r\nLewisburg is a \u201cgreat place to live,\u201d he said, but added, \u201cI\u2019m scared for my nine-year-old daughter to go to middle school.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cNo one likes to enter into a lawsuit,\u201d said Commissioner Mike McClung. \u201cSometimes it\u2019s required, sometimes it\u2019s necessary, and sometimes it\u2019s advisable... We are on the verge of losing a large portion of a generation... I\u2019m not naive enough to think that the action we are proposing is going to be a cure for the problem we have, but with an issue that is as important and as desperate as this one, I feel like we need to do something If this is a tool that can be used to turn some part of this problem around, then I suggest that we use it.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe commission agreed to authorize the resolution and join the lawsuit once Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via has reviewed the agreement.