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In exploring opioid litigation, Manchester votes to engage attorney firm

Manchester has joined thousands of other local governments nationwide in taking up legal representation to seek damages from drug distributors and manufacturers in response to the opioid crisis.

At its September meeting, the Town Council voted unanimously to engage the law firm Theodora Oringher.

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Class action lawsuits of this kind aim to get back some of the money lost to foregone productivity, extra police and rescue hours, and other costs associated with widespread opioid abuse.

Town Administrator Steve Miller said Mayor Ryan Warner had signed a letter of engagement, which was sent to Theodora Oringher.

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Miller believes the next step will be for the law firm to reach back out with questions for the town, likely focused on administrative staff, the police department and the fire company. The firm will help quantify what the actual cost of opioid abuse has been.

Theodora Oringher is also representing Carroll County in litigation against drug manufacturers and distributors including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the opioid medication known as OxyContin. The suits allege that these companies are responsible for damages caused by the opioid crisis.

That case is expected to be refiled in Carroll County Circuit Court, though it had not been as of Tuesday.

At the town’s Sept. 10 mayor and council meeting, Warner said legal expenses are contingent on the outcome and the town is not taking the risk of owing money out of pocket.

Councilwoman Jennifer Miller asked if pursuing the suit would cost the town extra in labor from town staff collecting data.

Warner said he thinks there will be some work required, but believes the data will be more high level than low level.

“I don’t think it’s going to be burdensome because they know exactly what they’re looking for,” he said.

Warner said he thought the biggest risk of incurring cost to the town would be if they engage the law firm and then decide to back out of the legal action after the firm has already racked staff hours and expenses.

“I think when we engage them, we’re on that train,” Warner said.

Councilwoman Melinda Smith said she wanted to make sure that the town could contact the law firm with questions.

“Questions are going to come up from this, I’m quite sure,” she said.

Warner said the town would likely appoint Miller, the town administrator, as the point person for contact with the firm.

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As for how long the legal action might take? It could be a long process.

“If I could predict that, I’d be an attorney too,” Warner joked.

The full video of the meeting may be viewed at the Community Media Center YouTube channel. The video is titled “Manchester Town Council Meeting 9-10-2019.”

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