CHAPMANVILLE — The Chapmanville Town 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 town of Chapmanville in a nationwide opioid lawsuit against drug manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, outlined the process at the most recent town council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 8. The nationwide settlement, which is in the billions of dollars, would distribute much larger amounts of money to bigger cities, even though West Virginia may have been more affected.
“Bigger cities are getting greater amounts, even though they may not have had the significance of the problem that we’ve had here,” said town attorney Rob Kuenzel. “So, what we can do is opt out, and what I mean by that is the Chafin firm can pursue the claim on its own — us individually — and not this whole class of individuals.”
Chafin said the lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of the town in Logan County, but the case was later taken to United States District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, where the town was put into a nationwide class.
“We felt that this is a West Virginia problem that should be held in West Virginia court, because West Virginia is unique from any other state in the country with the problems that we’ve had and the amount of opioid pills that have been distributed and dumped here, quite frankly,” Chafin said. “So, we filed a lawsuit for the town of Chapmanville in Logan County, and the defendants didn’t like that.”
On Sept. 11, Judge Dan Aaron Polster, the judge in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) of the 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 Chapmanville, and municipalities have until Nov. 22 to opt out of it and pursue the case on a smaller scale.
“It would be our recommendation from our legal team that represents you to opt out so that we can bring the town of Chapmanville back to West Virginia,” Chafin said. “It wouldn’t be tried on its own, per se, but there’s a mass litigation panel established in West Virginia now that has some cities and counties in it, so it’s like a smaller class where the town of Chapmanville would be in a class with other members similar to it from West Virginia, as opposed to being in a settlement with, like, Los Angeles or Miami or Chicago. Any settlement allocation is never going to be as fair and equitable as it needs to be if we’re up against those kind of cities.”
On a national scale, according to the information presented to Kuenzel, the settlement would be approximately $11.91 per population. When calculated to Chapmanville’s population of 1,256 in the 2010 U.S. Census, the town’s share would equal around $14,958.96, which Kuenzel said would likely be under $10,000 after costs and fees.
With those numbers in hand, Kuenzel agreed with Chafin and recommended council opt out of the national class.
“I believe with our representation, they could garner a better, or broker, a better deal, or try the case and get a better result than what the proposal is at this point,” Kuenzel said.
After a short discussion, councilwoman Robin Adams Mutters motioned for the town to opt out of the class. It was seconded by councilman Joel McNeely and unanimously approved by the rest of the council.
Dylan Vidovich is a news reporter for HD Media. Contact him by phone at 304-896-5196.