Columbus has decided not to be included in the state’s legal action against pharmacy companies involved in the opioid crisis in order to continue seeking its own claim.
The Columbus Board of Works has approved documents for opting out of the state’s litigation.
City attorney Alan Whitted explained that the state of Indiana has passed legislation that seeks to consolidate the litigation that local governments have filed against pharmacy companies and fold it into the case filed by the state attorney general. However, there is also the option for local governments to opt out.
During the summer of 2020, Mayor Jim Lienhoop directed Whitted to file a proof of claim in the bankruptcy case of Purdue Pharma, according to the opt-out resolution approved by the board.
While there isn’t a guarantee that the city will get a payout, city officials are hopeful about the outcome, and opting out of the state’s litigation will allow them to keep 100% of the funds they receive from their own case, Whitted said. It also means that the city will not participate in whatever settlement results from the state’s case and will be responsible for its own legal expenses, if these arise.
On the other hand, the state will divide 15% of its settlement fund between participating cities, counties and towns on a per capita basis, according to the approved legislation. Another 15% will go to the state, and 70% will “be used for statewide treatment, education, and prevention programs for opioid use disorder and any co-occurring substance use disorder or mental health issues as defined or required by the settlement documents or court order.”
Whitted also noted that the city will have an opportunity to opt back into the state litigation after 60 days or before Sept. 30, whichever comes first.
“This really defers the decision for another 60 days because by opting out, we reserve our options to either remain out or opt back in,” said Lienhoop. He added he believes a hearing or decision in the bankruptcy case is expected to come within that timeframe.
Other cities have chosen to opt out, including Bloomington, Fishers and Indianapolis.