Carson City is hiring a law firm to file suit against distributors and manufacturers of prescription opioids for damages incurred from the opioid epidemic.
The Board of Supervisors on Thursday voted to enter into an agreement with Eglet Prince, which will pursue the claim on the city’s behalf. The Las Vegas law firm will receive a contingency fee of 25 percent of recovered damages.
Robert Eglet made a presentation to the supervisors at their April 5 meeting in which he said aggressive and misleading marketing led to the epidemic and the city could recover damages for law enforcement, health and human services, and other costs directly related to dealing with opioid addiction.
The board raised a number of questions then, including the possibility the suit could be removed from the Nevada court system and end up in federal court lumped in with other cities and counties nationwide in a multidistrict litigation, where the city would have less control of the outcome. The supervisors then asked the Carson City District Attorney to research the risks and bring it back to the board.
“We followed up in particular on the issue of a state court and found some cases where the Eglet Prince law firm’s strategy had been successful,” said Jason Woodbury, district attorney, after the board meeting on Thursday.
Woodbury also reached out to the state attorney general’s office to be sure a suit filed independently by Carson City wouldn’t interfere with any legal actions the attorney general may take in the future.
“So I recommended we move forward,” said Woodbury. “I think that’s the best thing for the city.”
The board also upheld the appeal of a decision by the city engineer to renumber the addresses at half the buildings in the Bella Lago Apartments at 1600 Airport Road.
The complex has nine buildings built 40 years ago and another nine, including a clubhouse, that were added in 2017. The two groups of buildings have different addressing schemes because the newer buildings adhere to current municipal code.
That creates confusion for both the Sheriff’s Office and the Fire Department. For firefighters, in particular, the older addresses are a problem because the addressing convention doesn’t indicate on what floor an apartment is located.
“The first and second floor is a big issue for us,” said Dave Ruben, battalion chief. “As soon as the call comes out I need to order the appropriate equipment. It’s a time issue for us.”
Late last year the city engineer met with the complex’s owner, Ben Farahi, and then issued a letter notifying him the addresses would be changed. Apartment residents, through Farahi and his lawyer, Frank Gilmore, appealed the decision.
Several residents spoke during public comment in opposition to the change and several supervisors advocated for finding a solution that wouldn’t require the residents to change their addresses, and suggested city departments work with apartment management to find other ways to mitigate the issue.
Mayor Bob Crowell said public safety concerns outweighed the inconvenience to residents.
“If somebody dies because we didn’t take the hard decision I won’t be able to sleep at night,” he said.
The board voted 4-1 with Crowell voting no to uphold the appeal of the city engineer’s decision.
The board voted 3-0 to accept a $1,128,570 donation from the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation to take over Adams Hub.
Supervisors Karen Abowd and Brad Bonkowski abstained due to conflicts of interest.
The business incubator will fall under the purview of the Carson City Library and an economic development position moved from the city manager’s office to the library.
Valerie Cauhape, who oversaw Carson City Health and Human Services accreditation process, will be Adams Hub business development manager.
The goal is for the operation to be entirely self-sustaining within three years, when the grant would end, or to terminate the agreement or seek more support from the foundation to continue.
The foundation grant is spread out over three years and consists of a lease on the building and $200,000 annually to operate it. No money is coming from the city’s general fund.
“I want to put on record why I’m supporting this. I’m not a 100 percent convinced about it, but I have faith in the library and in Mr. Neighbors and in Valerie,” said Supervisor Lori Bagwell, referring to Steve Neighbors, trustee at the foundation. “We might as well give it a shot.”