Representatives of a Dallas, Texas-based private law firm are trying to convince the Burleigh County Commission to file its own lawsuit over opioids, rather than leave it to the North Dakota Attorney General’s office.
The suits are against the manufacturers of the opioids. They claim the companies misrepresented the harm these pain killers can do. And that has led to overdose problems and deaths.
The AG’s office has already filed suit in state court in North Dakota.
John Kirtley is with the Ferrier law firm from Dallas. Kirtley told the Commission lawsuits filed by individual cities and counties are now pending in a federal court in Ohio. Kirtley said if Burleigh County leaves it to the Attorney General, it may get lost in the shuffle when settlements or awards are handed out.
"What we do not want to see is any Attorney General, looking out for any state, to the exclusion of the unique harms that each county has suffered," Kirtley said.
Perrell Grossman is the director of the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud division. He told the Commission these private law firms have a lot of cities and counties as clients – some much larger than Burleigh County.
"If they represent New York City, and they represent you, who's going to drive that settlement?" Grossman told the Commission. "You can insist on what you want, but if New York, Houston or San Diego want something different, I'm not sure how that will shake out."
Grossman said he's not implying Burleigh County will be mistreated in that process.
"I'm just saying, you shouldn't necessarily think that just because you join with 40 other cities, that you're going to get a larger piece of the pie," Grossman said.
The Burleigh County Commission will hear from another private law firm at its next meeting. The Commission will make a decision after that.