WILLIAMSON — The Williamson City Council has voted to opt out of a nationwide class in an opioid lawsuit settlement in favor of pursuing the case individually.
Letitia “Tish” Chafin with Chafin Law Firm PLLC, who represents the city of Williamson and several other southern West Virginia towns in a nationwide opioid lawsuit against drug manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, was present at the council meeting on Oct. 24 and outlined the process during an executive session.
The nationwide settlement, which is for billions of dollars, would distribute much larger amounts of money to bigger cities across the country despite West Virginia being more affected.
The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of the city of Williamson, but the case was later taken to U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, where the city was put into a nationwide class.
On Sept. 11, Judge Dan Polster, the judge in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) case in Cleveland, issued an order establishing a negotiating class in which every county and every city in the U.S. is a member. A packet detailing the class was sent to each, including Williamson, and municipalities have until Nov. 22 to opt out of it and pursue the case on a smaller scale.
“Tish explained very well the scenario that we are facing,” Mayor Charlie Hatfield said after coming out of executive session. “As with all litigation there are opportunities to go right and left … and she has advised us as well as council that we need to opt out of proposal of a class member settlement that has been presented to the city. We have a deadline. Tish explained to the council members that this form here asks us and authorizes me as mayor to opt out of the current plan and see where the litigation goes.”
Chafin added that “the end goal was coming back to West Virginia to litigate the city’s claims.”
After the discussion, councilman Ralphie Hall made the motion for the city to opt out of the class, and it was seconded by councilman Joe Venturno and unanimously approved by the rest of the council.
The Williamson City Council is scheduled to meet again at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14. That will be the only council meeting for the month of November as the second meeting, which would have been Thursday, Nov. 28, will not be held due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.