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Harford to begin interviewing law firms to pursue suit against opioid manufacturers, distributors

Harford County is moving forward with its lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors but still has to work out its details, a county government spokesperson said this week.

A team of the county administration, including County Attorney Melissa Lambert and Director of Administration Billy Boniface, will be meeting over the next couple weeks with law firms to interview them and then make recommendations to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman about going forward with the lawsuit, Cindy Mumby said.

“This will determine which firm to use, which outside counsel,” she said.

In his State of the County Address in January, Glassman announced the county’s intention to file suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors for their alleged roles in spurring an abuse crisis that has reached epidemic proportions.

Harford has reached out to some of the other counties in Maryland that are also suing drug manufacturers and some firms have contacted the county, Mumby said.

“We’ve invited them to meet with us,” she said.

Outside counsel is necessary “because of the complexity and time-consuming nature of this type of litigation,” Mumby said.

Among the topics to be discussed when the county meets with these firms will include potential strategies for the lawsuit.

“The goal is to recoup costs in Harford County to combat the heroin crisis,” Mumby said. “We do believe our costs will run into the millions.”

Those millions include county funds budgeted in recent years. Glassman allocated $100,000 in fiscal year 2016 for treatment and prevention, doubled it to $200,000 the next fiscal year and increased it to $250,000 for this fiscal year.

It also includes money spent by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and the Harford County Health Department in their efforts to fight the deadly epidemic, she said.

“There may be others, but it’s at least those,” Mumby said.

It’s too early to provide any type of timeline for filing a suit, she said.

“We’re just beginning this process,” Mumby said.

Multiple Maryland counties are filing suits against drug makers and distributors. Anne Arundel and Cecil counties have filed separate suits and Baltimore and Howard counties are at similar points as Harford in their efforts to file lawsuits.

When Glassman announced Harford’s intent, a representative of the national trade association for prescription drug distributors, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, countered the accusations.

“As distributors, we understand the tragic impact the opioid epidemic has on communities across the country,” John Parker, a senior vice president, said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “We are deeply engaged in the issue and are taking our own steps to be part of the solution – but we aren’t willing to be scapegoats. “

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