BRENTWOOD — The Rockingham County Commission has retained a law firm to sue opioid makers and plans to use any proceeds for county recovery programs, said Commissioner Tom Tombarello.
By unanimous vote, the commission agreed to be represented by attorney Robert Bonsignore, who announced last month he’s also been retained by Strafford County sue opioid makers.
Tombarello said Friday the commission concurred it would be best for the county to take the legal action, as opposed to the state, so any funds can stay in the county. He said the impacts of prescription opioids have been felt throughout the county and in many cases, addiction and death began with prescribed opioids.
“The money would go to treatment,” he said. “There’s a lot we could be doing that we’re not doing.”
As examples, he cited more comprehensive treatment programs in the county jail and transitional housing for people in recovery.
“It’s long overdue,” he said.
According to Rockingham County Commission minutes, Bonsignore appeared before the oversight board May 8 and reported at that time that Cheshire, Belknap and Carroll counties had all agreed to have him represent them in lawsuits against opioid makers. The attorney told the board some drug manufacturers did not self-regulate as required and “are making billions per year,” the minutes note.
Bonsignore, who could not immediately be reached for comment Friday, is quoted in county minutes explaining he will represent the counties for a contingency fee of 25 percent. Tombarello noted that’s a smaller contingency than the typical 33.3 percent.
“He (Bonsignore) continued to say, they lied about the addictive qualities and said it was based on a study on patients and that the study was conducted in a hospital controlled setting,” the county minutes note.
The lawsuits are described as “a mass tort” claim and Bonsignore reported he’s representing more than 100 government entities, county records report.
“The goal is to recoup the losses incurred by the county taxpayers due to this epidemic and to have the cost of what has happened in the past, as well as in the future, be the responsibility of the drug manufacturers,” county minutes state.
Tombarello said the three-member County Commission all agreed the lawsuit, “is the right thing to do for Rockingham County.” He said a contract has been signed and the suit will be filed in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire.