Barling has joined other Arkansas cities in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The Barling Board of Directors voted Tuesday to authorize City Administrator Mike Tanner to sign an opioid litigation engagement letter between the city and the Arkansas Municipal League defense program. A copy of the letter that was included in the meeting packet sets out in writing the terms and conditions upon which multiple law firms will provide legal services to Barling in relation to the investigation and prosecution of claims against companies and other parties involved with the manufacture and/or distribution of opioid medications.
Prior to the vote, Barling City Attorney Matt Ketcham recommended the board of directors authorize Tanner to sign the letter.
"I've talked with Mark Hayes (director of legal services for the Arkansas Municipal League) extensively, his general counsel," Ketcham said. "This is happening whether we sign on to it or not. The attorney general is acting on it. This is going to start happening all across the country. This is probably the next Big Tobacco assault like they did Big Tobacco, 10, 20 years ago, only, I think the way that it is explained to me was expecting more money to trickle down to locales, municipalities, as opposed to the tobacco money that seemed to stop at the state."
Ketcham said he understands much of that money is going to be put back into things such as law enforcement training and ways to fight drugs and opioids. The counties and cities in the state have joined forces in this matter, as well as the Association of Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League.
"Most of the cities and towns across Arkansas have signed up," Ketcham said. "I think every county has signed up."
Ketcham said this is not going to cost Barling anything.
"The law firms are assuming all of the cost and all of the risk, and it's being done on a contingency fee basis there," Ketcham said. "I believe the contract specifies that they will get 25 percent of any recovery. They'll also get the return of their cost, but that would leave, you know, roughly ... 70, 75 percent of that money being distributed at the state and local level."