Jasper opts out of state opioid settlement

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Common Council voted Wednesday to opt out of pending statewide lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The state controls much of the current process, which some cities are worried will leave them without a say in the allocation process, City Attorney Renee Kabrick said.

“The legislation does restrict the city’s capability of recovering from a number of defendants that the State of Indiana did not include in its lawsuits,” Kabrick said. “So if we were to be included in their settlement, then we may be giving up the claims against those other defendants in their entirety.”

Several Indiana cities, including Jasper, have chosen to do the same as they pursue their own lawsuits because they could potentially receive more settlement money on their own. The lawsuits seek to recover money spent on police and fire departments and treatment and prevention programs in response to the state’s opioid crisis.

The City of Jasper is involved in a suit that was filed last year. It is not a class action suit, Kabrick said, but it is identical to hundreds of others. The suit is a claim against three entities: the manufacturers, the marketers and the pharmacies.

“We became part of a large consortium that is represented by multiple law firms from across the United States, and those firms have been involved in a massive discovery effort,” she said. “They’ve been collecting documents and taking depositions … and now they’re getting to the point where a number of the really big defendants are filing bankruptcy.”

The city has 60 days from Wednesday to opt back into the settlement. For now, the city plans to wait and see what happens as the deadline to opt back in approaches, Kabrick said.

“Right now, there are no definite terms on the state settlement. So we’re just talking about pretty general terms for if the state reaches a settlement … and we don’t know what will happen with our own case,” she said. “It’s a lot of moving parts, so we’ll just wait and listen to what those attorneys in that consortium have to say.”

The council also:

• Passed a resolution confirming the designation of a portion of the city as an economic revitalization area and approving statements of benefits for Indiana Furniture Industries Inc.

• Passed an ordinance to vacate a public utility and drainage easement for Indiana Furniture Industries Inc.

• Passed an ordinance authorizing the financial aspects of the University Heights project, which will involve a new apartment complex near the Vincennes University Jasper campus that will be available to students and the public. Developer Ruger Kerstiens will be at the Jasper Board of Zoning Appeals and Plan Commission meetings on Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, to provide more logistical information about the project to the public.

• Passed an ordinance for the annexation of Brookstone Estates VII, a single-family home subdivision near Pebble Drive and County Road 490 West.

• Passed a resolution adopting a written fiscal plan and establishing a policy for the provision services to Brookstone Estates VII.

• Passed an ordinance amending the city’s municipal code to include stop signs that have been recently added to the city.

• Passed a resolution accepting a donation to install a water bottle filling station at Bohnert Park. The donation comes from local Girl Scout Caroline Kiefner, who raised $2,000 for the project.

• Passed an ordinance establishing rates and charges for the customers of the Jasper Municipal Electric Utility. This ordinance concerns electric vehicle charging stations that will be installed across the city, including two in the River Centre north parking lot and two in the parking lot next to the Jasper Post Office.

• Passed a resolution regarding participation in the Indiana READI grant funding program. Jasper will partner with Regional Opportunity Initiatives and Radius Indiana to create the READI Regional Plan.




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