CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — There are concerns about the amounts of money being paid to law firms, for their help in securing opioid settlement dollars in West Virginia.
Some critics want more money for treatment and less for lawyers. The bottom line though, is that there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the Mountain State to deal with opioids.
It’s no secret that West Virginia still has a serious opioid epidemic, with the highest overdose death rate in the nation.
The state, and most cities and counties, joined together to sue drug makers and distributors. West Virginia’s Common Benefit Fund says $940 million was won in settlements. But $141 million of that will be spent on the many lawyers who fought the case. That includes a South Carolina based firm that partnered with a Charleston firm, potentially bringing in $41 million.
The state’s attorney general calls it money well spent, but critics disagree.
“They deserve to be paid. They’ve done a good job. We’re not against them getting paid, but $50 million? $50 million? I mean that’s money that can go to so many things here in the state of West Virginia,” said Greg Thomas, of WV Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
“We did a competitive bid. And that was a combination of West Virginia and some other firms. And I think the results speak for themselves. When you get to be number-one per capita in the country because of the combined team you put on, you win the national championship if you will,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R) West Virginia.
But the attorney general says he is asking a Kanawha County Circuit Court, to lower the overall legal fees even further. He says he wants more money focused on opioid problems, too.
The attorney fees represent about 15% of the total settlement dollars. In most civil actions, lawyers get upwards of one-third of the money.