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State Leaders React to Ohio Last-Minute Opioid Deal as They Prepare for W.Va. Case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A deal reached in a landmark opioid case in Ohio could possibly affect future cases across the country including in West Virginia.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Monday he was not surprised to hear of a last-minute settlement with three drug distributors and a drug manufacturing company agreeing to pay two Ohio counties $260 million.

"Sometimes when you get right up to the very last minute and you're on the courthouse steps you can see this kind of arrangement," Morrisey said.

The settlement could possibly set a precedent for future cases in the same courtroom, one that includes West Virginia, which has been the most devastated state hit by the opioid epidemic.

"It creates what I call a bellwether settlement now that everyone can go back and extrapolate and say, 'These two counties receive this amount of money with this population and this many drugs.' This gives a better idea of where the defendants are wanting to settle these cases," lawyer Rusty Webb said.

Webb represents most of the municipalities and counties, including Huntington, and believes settling could be a better option in the end.

"I believe West Virginia should have its voice heard, but I don't believe you should be so overzealous that you ignore a good settlement proposal. It's disingenuous," Webb said.

In a statement, attorney Paul Farrell said:

The defendants paid $320M to avoid public disclosure of the facts on the eve of trial. The facts are twice as bad in Cabell County. Facts are stubborn things.

Morrisey said when it comes down to it, the state will get its day in court and needs its voice heard.

"We have to make sure we're addressing some of the root causes of the problem and that the money goes to abate the problem - that's critical. These are dollars that have to go into fixing some of the problems that have arisen," Morrisey said.

Eyewitness News asked Morrisey if money has been released to the statehouse from his settlement earlier this year and his response was they "will be sitting down with the Legislature and others to help ensure those monies will help those most in need."

Cabell County's case is set to be heard next year.

Source: Brown, Raven. Originally published in WCHS on Oct 21, 2019.

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