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Prescott City Council mulls litigation over damages from opioid epidemic
Potential ‘economic harms’ could approach $20 million

Patrick Sison/AP

Patrick Sison/AP

An opioid epidemic that has hit Prescott “particularly hard” could lead the Prescott City Council to join a litigation effort aimed at making the responsible drug manufacturers pay damages.

During its 3 p.m. study session on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St., the City Council will consider whether to authorize civil litigation against “those responsible for the wrongful manufacture and distribution of prescription opiates …”

Attorneys involved with the litigation will be on hand at the voting meeting to provide the history of the opioid epidemic, as well as an overview of the recommended legal strategy.

A city memo notes that the engagement of the legal firms would be on a “pure contingency basis,” which means that the city would pay for the legal services only if there is “recovery” of damages through the litigation. “If there is no recovery, there are no fees paid by the city,” the memo states.

For more than a decade, Prescott has grappled with an influx of group homes serving recovering drug and alcohol abusers — a point emphasized in the city memo.

“Within Yavapai County the opioid epidemic hit Prescott particularly hard,” the memo states. “Former opioid addicts-turned-businesspeople have set up dozens of sober living facilities, sparking concerns from many citizens that Prescott’s proud reputation as ‘Everybody’s Hometown’ is now in jeopardy.”

While the memo notes that estimates on possible damage amounts are premature, it adds that an algorithm in another state has put the impact through 2010 from OxyContin at roughly $111 per person. Taking the formula through 2010 into 2019, the memo states, “It is not unreasonable to expect that the damage modeling could indicate economic harms anywhere between $500 to $1,000 per citizen” — resulting in damages to Prescott of “easily upwards of $20 million.”

The harms are measured through impacts on crime, health care-related costs, and lost tax revenue.

The council could vote on the engagement agreement for the civil litigation at the Tuesday meeting.

In other action, the council will:

• Conduct a public hearing and vote on proposed rate increases for city water and sewer customers.

• Consider accepting a trail easement from the Ecosa Institute. A city memo notes that the Willow Lake-area easement — at a cost of $16,000 — would link the city’s trail system with the 47-acre Ecosa property in the Granite Dells.

• Discuss a potential city charter provision regarding lease-purchase real estate agreements (during a 1 p.m. study session).

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or

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