Opioid lawsuit: State Sen. Whatley offers legal services to county

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By Blenda Copeland

As city and county governments continue to join a class action statewide lawsuit against certain opioid distributors, State Sen. Tom Whatley has approached the Russell County Commission offering to represent the county’s interests should it wish to join the efforts being led by the law firm Beasley Allen.

At the commission’s work session Monday, Whatley clearly stated he was addressing the commission not as this area’s state senator; but rather, on a personal level. Although he is this area’s state senator, he also makes a professional living as a lawyer through Tom Whatley Law LLC of Auburn. During his address to the commission, Whatley said he had an ethics opinion regarding his actions, noting that in a case such as this, it would not be considered full-time employment since this would be for a particular, special project (the opioid lawsuit). “This would not be a full-time position for me,” Whatley said – if the commissioners were to agree to let him represent the county.

If Whatley were chosen to represent the county’s interests, Whatley would be partnering with an Alabama law firm called Beasley Allen, which is representing the state as a client, among others. He also would be the county’s first point of contact.

Recently, the City of Phenix City committed to join the class action lawsuit. The city will be represented by a firm called Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, PA., of Pensacola, Fla.

Whatley reviewed the case’s importance: it’s multi-district litigation, and, essentially seeks damages (i.e., for increased costs to cities, counties, etc.) related to battling the state’s opioid addiction problems.

Meanwhile, in a brief interview after the work session, Whatley updated The Citizen on three pieces of legislation he’s worked to bring to the forefront with the legislature this session.

One involves how opioid medications are “scheduled,” (that is, classified) as far as what would now constitute trafficking of certain prescription drugs in that class, etc. A second bill involves a production agricultural bill that would cover tax credits for older farmers who help younger farmers get started in the business by selling, leasing or lease/sharing land with them. A third bill is The Sadie Grace Andrews Act, which outlines improved safety measures in response to the 3-year-old girl who tragically died after falling into a grease trap at a restaurant in Lee County, Ala.