SPOKANE — The Spokane City Council unanimously approved a contract Monday with a Seattle law firm to initiate legal action against the manufacturers of prescription opioid painkillers.
The contract with Keller Rohrback of Seattle adds Spokane to a long list of communities that have chosen to take action against pharmaceutical firms, citing mounting overdose deaths and the costs of addiction in dealing with property crime and other public safety issues. Spokane County signed its own contract with Keller Rohrback in April 2018, and is currently involved in litigation on behalf of hundreds of other governments that is being heard in an Ohio federal courtroom.
The Spokane City Council had initially approached the city’s legal team last year and requested an evaluation of whether to join the litigation. The city attorney’s office initially balked, but re-evaluated the request after the council passed a resolution requesting they do so earlier this summer. Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, announced an agreement in principle in September that would provide $10 billion in damages to communities affected by the opioid crisis. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said publicly that agreement isn’t satisfactory.
The city council approved the contract, which includes a $25,000 retainer and payment to the law firm based on the amount awarded in court, without public testimony Monday afternoon. There were no comments from lawmakers before the contract received approval by voice vote.