EATON — The Board of Preble County Commissioners passed a motion during s meeting on Wednesday, July 29, to file a claim as a creditor in the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.
Preble County Prosecuting Attorney Martin Votel received a memo from Commission Clerk Kim Keller dated June 7 that notified the board of pending litigation in the Southern District of New York bankruptcy court regarding Purdue Pharma.
“And for the record, I’m speaking of Case 19-23649, and essentially, this is Purdue Pharma filing for bankruptcy as a result of litigation from political subdivisions across America, counties, cities, etc., making claims against Purdue Pharma for allegedly engaging in tortious conduct beginning in the 1990s with respect to opiates,” Votel said.
Votel went on to explain that Purdue Pharma had little-to-no evidence that opiates could safely address pain management, yet they produced and marketed them to convince medical providers that they were in fact safe.
“A bunch of people got legitimately addicted to this medication as a result of over-prescribing, and then once states kind of caught on to this problem and cracked down on the prescription of these drugs, then addicts turned to street drugs and things of that nature to to address their addictions: heroin, fentanyl, Carfentanil, etc.,” he said.
Votel said that the 15 years of opioid addiction has resulted directly and indirectly in costs to individuals, families and the public through law enforcement, children services, etc., and this is what Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy is centered around.
“The letter that was forwarded to me was an invitation to the Preble County Commission to formally file in this bankruptcy as creditors in this action,” he said.
Votel added at this point that he felt it could be an appropriate topic for an executive session given that it is pending litigation, but the board elected to keep the meeting open.
In regards to what benefit Preble County would get from filing, Votel said a website mentioned in the letter that uses an algorithm to determine the amount of claim a political subdivision can file for based on how big it is, how many people there are, etc.
For Preble County, Votel said the website determined the number of $59 million, but said he was told the county would receive nowhere near that amount.
“The bad news is [that] lead counsel on this thing says no, that’s going to be included in your claim, but nobody is going to get anywhere near the amount that’s in that algorithm because obviously, there’s going to be a set amount of money that is the subject of the bankruptcy and there are to be literally thousands of creditors claiming rights to that money,” he said.
Votel said the process will “easily” move into 2021, and that the claim would be resolved by a bankruptcy trustee.
“So, at this point, I guess I will answer any questions the board may have, and the takeaway from this meeting is a directive from the board whether you wish me to file this claim as a potential creditor on this lawsuit or not and I will act accordingly,” Votel said.
“There’s no reason not to file? I mean, worst-case scenario, nothing happens, we get nothing?” Commissioner Rodney Creech asked.
“Right,” Votel responded. “You know, there is no downside. There’s no filing fee. There’s no attorney costs. There’s no downside and you know, the bankruptcy trustee is going to be the one sorting all this stuff out.”
Keller then presented a motion to the board to allow Votel to submit the claim on the county’s behalf which was made by Commissioner Chris Day, seconded by Commissioner Creech and passed unanimously.
The Preble County Commissioners meet Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Preble County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles