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Lucas County commissioners hire attorneys to explore joining opioid lawsuits

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Lucas County officials gave the go-ahead Tuesday to possibly pursue legal action against opioid manufactures for reimbursement of costs incurred while dealing with the ongoing drug crisis.

The county commissioners hired Zoll and Kranz LLC of Sylvania Township and Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, a New York-based law firm, to work with the county prosecutor to evaluate the viability of a civil complaint against drug manufacturers.

The two law firms are representing the county commissioners as special counsel in the litigation.

Evy Jarrett, an assistant prosecutor, said Lucas County, like other counties and communities, has spent taxpayer funds for costs associated with the epidemic.

"We have seen heavy financial burdens on various aspects of local government," she said.

The agreement calls for the two law firms to be paid a retainer on a contingency fee basis. The amount paid by the county will be based on the outcome of any litigation, and they would only be paid if the county would be successful in court.

"This is going to be a long fight, but a good fight. I am hopeful we can get some financial compensation to the county for the significant losses it has suffered to take care of the harm caused by the drug manufacturers," attorney David Zoll said.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said the impact on the community felt by the opioid crisis has extended to groups that provide treatment, law enforcement, and those that care for children such as the county's Children Services Board

"The agencies in our community have exploded with responsibilities to treat babies, families with heroin and fentanyl overdoses," she said.

Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, is representing counties in New York and municipalities around the counrty in complaints against drug manufacturers and distributors.

The city of Toledo filed a civil lawsuit Oct. 30 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against 24 opioid manufacturers and distributors to recoup its costs for responding to opioid-related emergencies.

City council approved hiring law firms, Climaco, Wilcox, Peca & Garofoli Co., LPA, and Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, to sue for opioid-related costs. The law firms represent several other cities, including Dayton and Parma, Ohio, in similar suits.

Mr. Zoll said his firm will conduct a background investigation and then provide county officials with a recommendation on whether to proceed with a complaint against the opioid manufacturers.

"There are some details I need to find out now that we have been retained," he said.

Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a drainage improvement project along Ten Mile Creek in Sylvania Township and a request from the county Engineer Keith Earley to acquire land for easements from about 30 property owners.

The project, estimated to cost about $1.7 million, is designed to reduce the risk of flooding to area roads, especially Herr Road and Central Avenue, and remove 20 houses and 10 businesses from the official hazard areas for 100-year floods.

Work on the 1.64-mile stretch will include ditch construction to create flatter side banks and benches to expand its capacity for retaining flood water and enhancing ecological habitat.

Plans also call for the engineer and Metroparks Toledo to partner in a future project to use the right-of-way along the south edge of the improved creek for an extension of University Parks Trail.

The Metroparks has obtained a $214,000 Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant to extend the recreation trail along the former right-of-way between King and Silica.

Contact Mark Reiter at markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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