Commissioners hire firm to start opioid lawsuit
POTTSVILLE — In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, the Schuylkill County commissioners decided Thursday to go after the manufacturers of the drugs to try to recover some of the costs of the fight.
The commissioners voted to hire the Philadelphia law firm of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky PC to sue drug manufacturing companies that made, promoted, distributed or sold opioids in the country, state and county.
“We think it’s better to go on our own,” instead of waiting for possible action by the state attorney general’s office, County Administrator Gary Bender said of the decision.
Assistant county solicitor Glenn Roth said that while the firm is headquartered in Philadelphia, the county will be dealing primarily with Carmen P. Belefonte, the managing partner of its office in Media, Delaware County.
“We’ve been tracking litigation throughout the state, monitoring what the counties are doing,” Roth said. He said the firm already has filed a similar lawsuit in Delaware County.
Roth said the lawsuit is an effort to respond to the costs of the opioid epidemic that the county has been shouldering. Those include the establishment of the Drug Treatment Court, along with increased costs of probation and parole officers, the drug and alcohol program and the prison, many of whose inmates have drug-related crimes on their record.
“Many of these costs can be directly related to the opioid crisis in the county,” he said. “We felt that based on the numbers we were seeing ... it’s important to protect the interests of Schuylkill County.”
Bender said the county entered into a contingent fee engagement agreement with Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, and did not have to pay any money up front.
“They only get their money if something gets settled,” he said.