Dallas County hires Tuscaloosa lawfirm for opioid suit

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2018

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

After hearing presentations from two separate law firms, the Dallas County Commission has decided to hire the services of Tuscaloosa-based Prince, Glover & Hayes to represent them as they move forward with their lawsuit against big-name pharmacies for their alleged role in stimulating Alabama’s opioid epidemic.

This follows a statewide trend of cities and counties individually hiring their own law firms to argue what they believe are significant health and financial damages caused as a result of Alabamians having easy access to opioids.

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To this point, the two main law firms representing interested parties are the Hayes firm as well as Beasley Allen out of Montgomery. This follows suit with the city of Selma, who is hiring the services of Hayes as well.

The decision to hire the Tuscaloosa firm was made after the commission voted 3-2 during their meeting Monday, March 12.

After discussion over the matter, commission members Valerie Reubin and Curtis Williams voted for Hayes, while members Roy Moore and Larry Nickles voted for Beasley Allen. This left Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard as the deciding vote, who chose to side with Hayes. The Commission’s decision came after Dallas County Attorney John Kelly implored the members to choose Prince, Glover & Hayes over Beasley Allen, citing what he believes are clear financial advantages.

Ballard reiterated much of the same, seeing the choice as one the county needed to make. According to Ballard and Kelly, Beasley Allen was looking for contingency fees of 35 percent, while Hayes’ contingency fees were around five percent lower, at close to 30 percent.

“Beasley Allen is a great law firm, but this simply just came down to money,” said Ballard. “In my opinion, the Hayes proposal was better for the county. Think about the financial problems caused due to the opioid crisis. There are quantifiable financial losses with losses of human value as well.”

So far, pharmacies have been the main party blamed for their role in supporting addictive opioid habits.

Lawsuits in Alabama, such as the one Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed on behalf of the state, usually name the same pharmaceutical companies, such as Purdue Pharma, L.P., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc., as responsible for the crisis.

However, many Alabama residents and public officials do not believe that these lawsuits hold all parties accountable. While those following the lawsuit typically agree that pharmacies must own up for their actions, commission member Reubin feels that the lawsuits should include negligent doctors as well.

“A lot of people are prescribed these things. The doctors just write them up,” Reubin said. “These opioids have caused a lot of chaos. They have caused families to break up. Dallas County has this problem too. The doctors writing these prescriptions should be held accountable as well.”

In addition to her opinion over the statewide lawsuits, Reubin also restated the commission’s position that the decision to hire the Hayes firm was “strictly financial.”

Despite Beasley Allen later changing their proposal to better suit Dallas County’s liking, Ballard has assured that they are sticking with Hayes.

According to Ballard, Kelly will now contact Prince, Glover & Hayes to begin working on the next steps of the lawsuit. Both Kelly and Ballard have previously stated that many parties involved in the multiple suits have expressed interest in having the case decided in an early settlement.

Although early settlement is not unprecedented, the exact number of entities interested in settling early is unknown. Ballard says that these types of cases “take time,” but he is hoping for some headway towards the early decision.