Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, has filed bankruptcy in an attempt to save itself from financial ruin and settle thousands of lawsuits for its role in the opioid crisis.
McMinnville officials may seek to add one more case against the company at the urging of its legal counsel. City attorney Tim Pirtle says there is money on the table and the city should file for a share.
“It’s just a matter of how big the pie is that’s to be divided and how many pieces it’s going to be cut into,” said Pirtle. “Now, lots and lots and lots of municipalities and governmental entities won’t go to the trouble of filing and pursuing a claim so they will be leaving money on the table. I don’t think we should do that.”
His advice was given to members of the city Finance Committee on Tuesday. Also recommended is that the city find and enter into an agreement with an attorney or law firm experienced in such litigation, of which he is not.
“It’s a very complicated and sophisticated litigation,” said Pirtle. “I don’t consider myself experienced enough to do it. I suggest the city go out for proposals.”
Mayor Ben Newman suggested those interviews be held in executive sessions – closed discussions between board members and the attorney – due to the conversation being in regard to pending litigation. Unlike open meetings, the public is denied attendance in executive sessions so they are secret.
Purdue Pharma has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Corporations generally file Chapter 11 if they require time to restructure their debts. This version of bankruptcy gives the debtor a fresh start.
“Purdue Pharma is attempting to protect itself from the multitude of lawsuits and class actions filed throughout the country and maybe throughout the world,” said Pirtle. “Those lawsuits are for damages that people and companies have suffered as a result of the opioid epidemic that Purdue Pharma had a significant role in causing.”
Under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a settlement will be negotiated during the bankruptcy process to resolve the cases against it. All lawsuits and class actions will be given a portion of what is expected to be a multi-billion dollar settlement.
During a court appearance in September 2019, the company initially offered to provide between $10 billion and $12 billion to help reimburse state and local governments and clean up the damage done by powerful prescription painkillers and illegal opioids, including heroin.
Local governments do not clearly seek damages because of bodily injury. Instead, they seek reimbursement for the cost in dealing with the opioid crisis and opioid addiction such as the cost to provide paramedic care, police involvement, social programs, and court programs.