The Town of Kermit will not be participating in the recent multi-billion dollar settlement proposed by Purdue Pharma as part of that company having been named, along with several other pharmaceutical companies and distributors, as a defendant in the national prescription drug epidemic lawsuits.
The decision to be excluded from the settlement was made during Monday’s regular council meeting following a teleconference meeting with one of the law firms representing the town.
Kermit is considered as having been the epicenter of the opioid epidemic after millions of prescription OxyContin pain killers produced by Purdue Pharma and distributed by other companies inundated the community over a 10-year period.
In early 2017, the Chafin Law Firm, along with the Charleston-based Bell and Troy law firms and the Morgan and Morgan Complex Litigation Group based in Florida, filed a lawsuit against Purdue and the other companies on the town’s behalf, as well as for other Southern West Virginia communities also having been affected by the prescription pill onslaught.
During the teleconference, attorney H. Truman Chafin said the primary reason Kermit and other West Virginia communities should opt out of the settlement is because the lion’s share of Perdue Pharma’s currently approximated settlement of $12 billion would go to larger cities and not to those smaller communities like Kermit that bore the brunt of epidemic.
He said Perdue Pharma’s recent decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy was an attempt by the company to settle lawsuits with 34,000 cities and counties across the country, of which the final amount, he explained, still remains in doubt due the company having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
He said each town/community has already received or will be receiving notification of the tentative settlement and the terms of the money damages distribution.
“What they did is they prorated it where Kermit and other small towns would have to compete cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, and under this matrix formula you all would get like $2,100 for each billion of the settlement … Chicago would get like $8 million and $12 million would go to Los Angeles,” he said. “So we never wanted to be in that federal matrix anyway, and we’ve asked all our clients, who are going to be the big losers in this (to opt out), and asked the judge to send our cases back to West Virginia for trial.”
Chafin said Kermit and all the other plaintiff towns and communities have until Nov. 22 to officially opt out of the agreement.
“You can’t talk about opioids anywhere in the United States, whether that be in Cleveland or Miami, or wherever, and the little town of Kermit, West Virginia doesn’t come up in the conversation,” he said. “Because that’s where they sent all these pills to start with … we’re what they refer to as ground zero, and I think the devastation they put on us warrants substantial sums of money.”
Regarding a question from council as to what basis the matrix formula had been for determining the money amounts each town would receive from the settlement, Chafin explained it was ultimately determined by population.
“The lawyers who represented Chicago and L.A. and these big cities basically told the judge and the referee that if they wanted to settle (the lawsuits) nationwide you’ll have to give the big cities a lot of money and the little cities…you know, essentially get nothing,” he said. “That’s why these companies want everything in federal court … they never want to come back and face the music where they did their dirt, so to speak.”
Chafin said he and the other attorneys expect to get the case back to West Virginia for trial sometime in 2020, likely by June.
After the teleconference with Chafin, the council voted unanimously to complete the exclusion request forms that will formally exclude Kermit from the proposed settlement.