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Ottawa County Sanctioned by Third Circuit Court for Encumbering Opioid Settlement

LANSING Judge Fresard of the Third Circuit Court sanctioned Ottawa County for delaying the disbursement of $81 million in Opioid Settlement funds to 269 local governments and the State of Michigan.

The Department of Attorney General finalized a settlement agreement with the nation’s largest wholesale drug distributors (Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen) in 2022. Eligible local governments could receive direct payments from the settlement by signing a voluntary participation form. Despite submitting a voluntary participation form and agreeing to the settlement terms, Ottawa County pursued a complaint demanding more funds than they were allocated. The challenge failed and in a rare move the judge sanctioned Ottawa County for frivolous court filings, making deceptive claims, and relying on facts it had no reasonable basis to believe.

“Ottawa County held up this significant settlement distribution from which its residents stand to gain greatly. Judge Fresard’s sanctions properly reflect the frivolous nature of Ottawa County’s misuse of the courts,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

More than 50 local governments joined with the Attorney General to request sanctions against Ottawa County.

“The opioid epidemic isn’t limited to cities. It reaches deep into smaller communities like ours where, every day, we still see the havoc caused by opioid addiction,” said Chairman Mark Wiley, Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners. “Because of Ottawa County, some of the programs we planned to combat the crisis have been delayed by as much as six months.”

“Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate based on where someone lives or how much money they make,” said Chris Forsyth, Deputy County Administrator, Grand Traverse County. “We are anxious to use settlement funds to help our community heal and prevent any more lives from being destroyed. Thankfully, this ruling finally allows us to move forward in that mission.”

“The City of Detroit appreciates Chief Judge Fresard holding Ottawa County accountable for not only abusing the judicial process and wasting public resources, but for inflicting real harm by delaying the use of settlement funds to combat the worst drug crisis in American history,” said Conrad Mallet, City of Detroit Corporation Counsel.

Ottawa County will continue to receive the settlement payments it has been allocated, per the agreement between the State and participating local governments. The sanctions against Ottawa County will be determined at an evidentiary hearing set for May 10th, 2023.


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