Attorney Cezar McKnight presented Williamsburg County Council on developments regarding opioid litigation and a resolution to opt into a nationwide class in reference to opiate litigation during a November 4, council meeting.
McKnight, who is part of a legal group retained to pursue the lawsuit, said Purdue Pharmaceuticals, who is the major defendant in the action has been in settlement talks with the firm as well as other parties. McKnight said they have threatened to file bankruptcy. McKnight said this is significant because if the company does so, it ruins the claim and goes to pennies on the dollar. “That’s part of their bargaining strategy,” said McKnight, adding Purdue does not wish to file bankruptcy because it is a family held corporation. “They like their friends and they don’t want to be regarded as being bad people.”
McKnight then presented two options for council to consider; continue outside the class, which means the county would represent itself. The other option is to opt into the class along with other municipalities around the country. McKnight said, in his opinion, its more cost effective to opt in to the class. “Less work for you to do, pretty much just sitting back and waiting on the settlement,” he said.
McKnight said settlement estimations run a wide birth. He said the county could expect to receive $57,000 per billion. He said the conservative estimates for settlement are $48 billion, which could translate into $2.73 million for Williamsburg County. He said settlement estimates have run as high as $70 to $80 billion. The litigation costs the county nothing. Council anonymously approved the resolution.
According the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, opioid-involved overdose deaths have been steadily increasing in South Carolina. From 2014 to 2017, the total number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by 47%, from 508 to 748 deaths, and the rate increased by 46%, from 10.6 deaths per 100,000 persons to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 persons. In 2017, Williamsburg County recorded five deaths by opioids.