Attorney General Beshear could face additional questions about contract with law firms going after drug makers, distributors

10/10/2017 03:58 PM

FRANKFORT — A contract awarded by Attorney General Andy Beshear to law firms planning to pursue action against drug makers that have contributed to the state’s addiction epidemic is still in limbo, and the co-chairman of the legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee says he expects to hear more on Beshear’s plans.

Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, says he hasn’t looked into the contract between Beshear and a group of four law firms, but it will likely be pulled for a more detailed explanation when it’s up for the committee’s approval.

Beshear awarded a contract to four law firms – Morgan & Morgan, Motley Rice, The Lanier Law Firm and Ransdell Roach & Royce – to go after drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers for illegally marketing and selling powerful, addictive drugs to Kentuckians.

But the Finance and Administration Cabinet says the contract isn’t finalized, and Lee says he has some philosophical questions about going after such companies in civil court, saying they’re often pushed to settle the lawsuits before they go to trial.

“I think that’s a philosophical issue that ought to be discussed at some time,” Lee said after the contract review panel met Tuesday.

Terry Sebastian, Beshear’s communications director, defending actions by Beshear and past attorneys general in prosecuting bad actors connected with opiates, saying those “successful investigations have led to dozens of convictions in the last several years alone.”

“At the same time, our office is absolutely focused on holding drug manufacturers and distributors accountable,” Sebastian said in a statement.

“These companies have made billions in profits while their products have ravaged Kentucky communities and taken the lives of thousands of our friends, family members and neighbors. Where they knew of the addictive nature of the product, engaged in deceptive practices or failed to meet their legal duties, we will hold them responsible.”

The contract, awarded by Beshear Sept. 22, calls for the firms to pay for litigation and collect fees from any settlements or winnings.

Beshear has said he wants to hold drug companies accountable for their actions in advancing the state’s addiction woes, but Lee says there are other avenues to do that.

“If any of these companies have engaged in conduct that constitutes a criminal action then I think that they should be pursued, but whether or not they should be subject to a civil lawsuit, which is what we’re talking about with the power of the attorney general’s office behind that action, is a different question entirely,” Lee said.

“And you’re asking about the merits. I don’t know what any of these companies have done or haven’t done to so-call peddle these pills. I don’t know those facts.”

Beshear is scheduled to discuss the initiative with the Program Review and Investigations Committee on Thursday.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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