After months of discussion, the Attorney General’s Office, alongside a workgroup of MACo and Maryland Municipal League representatives, submitted a revised memorandum of understanding (MOU) to county leadership regarding the distribution of funds from the Johnson and Johnson opioid medication lawsuit.
Under an extended deadline, counties have until January 26 to make a final decision whether to “opt in” and accept the terms of the settlement, and withdraw any current or future litigation claims.
The MOU would also govern how funds will be distributed from suits pending against the three largest distributors of opioid medication- Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.
An initial draft of the MOU had been circulated in October of 2021, and several counties voiced concerns about its terms. In response, Attorney General Brian Frosh suggested convening a workgroup to address said concerns. MACo’s representatives included:
- James R. Benjamin, Jr., County Attorney, Baltimore County
- Hamilton F. Tyler, Deputy County Attorney, Anne Arundel County Office of Law
- Anthony LaDana, Esq., Assistant County Attorney, Harford County Law Department
- Stewart Barroll, County Attorney, Caroline County (Cookerly & Barroll, LLC)
- Randy Guy, Commission President, St. Mary’s County
- Gary Kuc, County Solicitor, Howard County Office of Law
- Sarah Gross, Chief of Affirmative Litigation Division, Baltimore City Law Department
Discussions between the Attorney General’s Office and the MACo/MML workgroup yielded a number of compromises benefiting counties:
- The overall percentage of the settlement funds received by counties is increased;
- Counties have more flexibility in use of the funds – as much leeway to use funds as the master settlement allows;
- An additional percentage of settlement funds will be distributed to counties directly;
- No county will be required to engage in a competitive process for settlement funds, and will instead receive a guaranteed allocation upon the submission of a straightforward 5 year opioid abatement plan;
- Counties would not be obligated to form regional efforts to secure their full share of funding – such inter-jurisdictional collaboration is allowable but not mandatory; and
- Counties will not be required to eliminate the lawsuits of municipalities operating within their respective jurisdictions to receive set-aside incentive payments.
On Monday, January 17th, Attorney General Frosh briefed the Maryland General Assembly on the opioid settlement, providing some historical and legal background and detailing how much money Maryland can anticipate receiving as a whole. Elements of the settlement would then be required to pass through the General Assembly to reconcile its funding distribution and allowable use provisions.
This upcoming Monday, January 24th, county officials will be engaged in a MACo-facilitated discussion with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the opioid settlement MOU. The deadline for counties to register for the opioid settlement is January 26, 2022. County officials should contact their counsel or Brian Edmunds at the Office of the Attorney General should they have questions or need assistance in registering.