Rockland researches whether to pursue damages from drug 'dealers'

By Stephen Betts | May 16, 2018
Source: File photo

Rockland — The city is researching whether it makes sense to join one of the many class-action lawsuits against opioid manufacturers who deceptively pushed their painkillers and caused an epidemic of drug addiction.

City Manager Tom Luttrell told Rockland City Councilors at their May 14 meeting that he contacted the Lewiston law firm of Rafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette about that possibility. He is still having discussions with the firm.

The council voted 4-1 at its April 9 meeting to retain legal counsel at a minimum cost of staff time to the city to determine whether Rockland should join an opiod class-action lawsuit.

The Lewiston firm represents Portland and Bangor, Luttrell said.

Councilor Amelia Magjik asked for the city to consider the move.

Magjik said last month any money received by Rockland could be used to compensate the community for expenses incurred in dealing with the drug crisis created, in part, by opioid manufacturers and distributors. These costs include added emergency medical services and police calls.

Money also could be used for outreach efforts in the community.

The order approved by the council stated that opioid manufacturers and distributors "knowingly made and distributed quantities of prescription opioids far beyond amounts that were medically necessary, leading to an epidemic of addiction and death that has placed a huge financial strain on local governments around the country."

She said at the April 9 meeting that the drug manufacturers, whom she called "dealers," were partially culpable.

Magjik said she believed that if the city retained a firm and joined a lawsuit, there would be no financial cost to the city and if the lawsuit resulted in a monetary award to Rockland, the law firm would get a share of the proceeds.

Councilor Adam Ackor voted against the measure at the April 9 meeting.

Ackor said such lawsuits could take decades to conclude.

"We have more pressing matters than chasing this down the rabbit hole," Ackor said.

Councilor Ed Glaser voted to retain an attorney, but said he did not want a lot of city staff time spent on this matter.

Auburn, Bangor, Biddeford, Lewiston, Portland, Waterville and Kennebec County are among the government entities in Maine that have already joined in the class- action suit.

The claim by these and other communities across the country is that the drug companies misled physicians about the addictive potential of the prescription drugs. Some of the people who became addicted to these drugs would later turn to heroin or other illegal opioids.

The Maine Attorney General's Office reported that 418 people in Maine died from drug overdoses in 2017, up from 376 in 2016.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | May 16, 2018 19:46


Thank you for your vote. Why can't we focus on something that will move Rockland forward

Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 16, 2018 17:22

I question whether the city of Rocklandia would know what to do with any money retrieved from a rat hole. Since we can only siphon money from the quarry hole at a giveaway would the council even have a clue except buy some more bulldozers or fill some more potholes for a few minutes? I would like to see a price tag put on what this city has spent directly related to this potential lawsuit because I would assume we would have to prove in court a direct relation by showing each case specific doctor to patient exposing the names of all involved. Bucket of worms, but, the council will approve it because there is some free money in sight, or is it free? What will it cost to join this court case?

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 16, 2018 16:17

Perhaps if the officials go after the doctors who prescribe this addicted medicine there would not be an epidemic of the addicted. Better yet, have opioids banned from the marketplace.

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