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County considers opioid lawsuit

Stutsman County is considering participating in a lawsuit to recover law enforcement and other costs associated with opioid abuse from the manufacturers of the drugs.

Jonathan Novak, an attorney with Mcnamee Hosea law firm, told the Stutsman County Commission Tuesday that his firm was representing several counties and cities in North Dakota in a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids like oxycodone and others.

“We would go after the expenses this county has incurred since 1994,” Novak said, referring to the year oxycodone was first introduced. “The increases in law enforcement costs, the increase in judges and jails and the costs of the Narcan officers carry now.”

Narcan is a drug that, if administered in time, can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent death.

Novak said enough opioids enter Stutsman County each year to furnish each person in the county with 45 pills each year.

Novak said any settlement with the pharmaceutical companies would be structured like the tobacco settlement that provides money over a period of time for long-term treatment and care.

Mark Klose, Stutsman County commission chairman said the County Commission would take time to review the proposal and act in the near future. Novak did not estimate any possible settlement amount but said resolution of the cases could come in the summer of 2019.

Novak’s law firm works on a contingency basis and would receive up to 25 percent of any possible settlement. The county would incur no costs if it did not receive a settlement.

In other business, the County Commission re-elected Klose as commission chairman and Denny Ova as vice chairman. The County Commission was seated for the first time with Steve Cichos and Ramone Gumke, who were elected at the November general election. Klose said the commission members would be appointed to committees at the next meeting.

The Stutsman County Commission also agreed to proceed with a salary survey and fair labor standards review of county employees. The study will cost $15,000 and is being conjunction with the city of Jamestown.

The commission also awarded a contract for resurfacing 5 miles of County Road 42 west of Buchanan to Border States Paving. Border States was the apparent low bidder at $1.8 million. The work is planned for 2019.