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County Commission Investigating Mass Litigation Panel Regarding Opioid Crisis Lawsuit

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

WELCH, WV – Attorney Mark Troy addressed the Commission last week about the ongoing Opioid litigation case filed by the McDowell County Commission back in 2017.  

“Our case that’s pending in the National Suit is proceeding in the Northern District of Ohio,” said Troy. “There are several cases that did not get tossed by the Northern District of West Virginia. Our Supreme Court consolidated those in a court that it calls the Mass Litigation Panel in Charleston.”

The Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) has invited all West Virginia cases, even the ones tossed out to Ohio, to come back to West Virginia for purposes of a settlement conference to start the process of talking settlement, according to Troy.  

“The goal of the MLP is to see if it’s possible to resolve all of west Virginia at once instead of piecemeal,” said Troy. “That’s going to take place in the latter part of the month, but no one realistically expects it to settle at that point. It’s the beginning of the process.”

However, Troy was optimistic about subsequent meetings, hoping to see some claims begin to settle within 8 to 12 months.  

“It’s not going to go away overnight. There’s different tiers of defendants, really big players and small players,” said Troy. “We might see settlements coming out of this thing for several years.”

The County Commission voted to authorize Troy to represent their claim at Mass Litigation Panel proceedings. Afterwards, Prosecuting Attorney Emily Miller read aloud the 2017 resolution adopted by the County Commission regarding the Opioid Crisis. 

“Between 2006 and 2014, approximately 90,027,010 prescription pain pills were sold in McDowell County, which had a 2010 census population of 22,113. The dumping of millions of pain pills into our community has spawned a public health and safety hazard to the residents of McDowell County. Devastated our families, hurt our economy, wasted our resources and created a generation of narcotic dependants,” read Miller.

‘There are those I the chain of manufacturing, distribution and dispensing that have wrongly abused the privilege of providing medication to our residents and must be held accountable. It is the duty of the McDowell County Commission to vindicate the rights of the residents of McDowell County and to take action to evade this public nuisance.”

Troy said he would be happy to come back to report, since this would be the first glimpse into how the process will unfold. 

Other items discussed or approved at Wednesday’s meeting included: 

– After approving the Coalwood Sewer Construction Grant Drawdown #8, calling for $6010.91, Patterson said he expects the project to go to bid in either late spring or early summer. 

It was approved. 

– The Commission approved the tentative hire of a new bookkeeper, pending on current accountant Dennis Sizemore’s decision to continue serving the County. 

– The McDowell County Clerk’s Office called on the Commission to help secure polling places in Berwind and Bullcreek for the upcoming elections. 

– The Commission authorized County Administrator Jennifer Wimmer to begin the bid process to replace the County’s gas pump system for County-owned vehicles. 

– Dr. Joe Baisden was on the agenda to speak about medical cannabis but was not present for the meeting. 

– Teresa VanDyke, Director of the McDowell County 911 Center, addressed the Commission for approval of two training classes for 911 staff. The Commission approved only one due to the classes being scheduled at the same time, wishing not to leave the Center shorthanded. 

– The Commission also approved the purchase of security doors for the 911 Center, preventing unauthorized access from the Sheriff’s Office side of their building as well as adding additional security for offices and equipment rooms. 

– EDA Director Molina Roberts updated the Commission on the Berwind Lake Cabin project, expecting the Fire Marshal’s inspection within the week. Until a proper fire suppression system is placed in the cabins, occupancy will be limited to 3 guests until the upgrade can be made.