City, county leaders consider suing opioid distributors

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - New Hanover County commissioners and Wilmington City Council members announced Wednesday they will consider taking legal action against those responsible for the opioid epidemic.

In a joint news conference held Wednesday morning, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White said commissioners will consider a resolution at their meeting on Monday that allows the county to hire legal counsel.

"The outside legal counsel being considered will pay all costs associated with litigation, and the county will not pay any taxpayer dollars toward a lawsuit," White said.

According to the resolution, the county claims it has "received information indicating that wholesale distributors of controlled substances to New Hanover County may have violated federal and/or state laws and regulations enacted to prevent the diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market."

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the action could lead to a lawsuit filed on the city's behalf.

"All the elected officials here today are unanimous in this decision. Anyone of us could have vetoed this and we feel like we have a compelling lawsuit to be brought forward," Saffo said.

White cited statistics from the NHC Department of Social Services, saying the numbers showed how affected our area is.

"In 2015, there were 56 children born in this community with what's called substance abuse positive, or neonatal abstinence syndrome, NAS," White said. "So far in 2017, there have been 68, a nearly 80 percent increase, averaging out by the end of this year."

County Manager Chris Coudriet said the city and county are retaining Baron & Budd and Seagle law firm.

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