In its first in-person meeting since before the pandemic, the West Lafayette City Council voted to opt out of a statewide settlement of multiple lawsuits against Purdue Pharma on Monday night.
West Lafayette joined a long list of other Indiana communities, such as Lafayette, Bloomington and Monroe County, in suing Purdue Pharma, the drug company that makes Oxycontin. The 2018 lawsuit also included drug companies McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.
Purdue Pharma has been accused of intentionally overprescribing opioids dating back to the early 1990s. The company agreed to a controversial settlement in October.
Now, the council is resisting Indiana's attempt to combine each case in the state and reach a single settlement.
"The state law says unless you opt out as a city, the state would take over conducting that litigation," city attorney Eric Burns said after the meeting. "The council decided that they would opt out. I'm sure some (other communities) will opt out also."
If West Lafayette were to join Indiana's settlement, it would receive only a portion of the 15% of damages allotted to be distributed to local governments.
"Fortunately for our community, the amount of damages that we have is probably minimal compared to a lot of communities," Burns said. "It was never about the money. It's an important societal effort to take on.
"It was the mayor's judgment seven years ago that it's time to do something, and the city was willing to do that."
Mask mandate lifted
An ordinance supporting Mayor John Dennis' recent executive order and officially lifting the citywide mask mandate passed unanimously Monday.
“We are living in times of constant change," Dennis said during the meeting. "We’ve had significant changes to our personal freedoms. With the advancement of vaccines, I feel it is time to go ahead and pull the mask mandate."
Dennis clarified that those who continue to wear masks will not be penalized, and individuals should do whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
He, along with council members Shannon Kang and Nick DeBoer, praised the West Lafayette and Purdue communities for how they handled the pandemic, and their reception to the vaccine.
Council member David Sanders was not as enthusiastic.
“As a nation, we have not succeeded," he said. "We have had a terrible toll because of mismanagement at the top levels of government and because of conspiracy theories that continue to plague our nation. We may be able to congratulate ourselves as a community, but it's not time to congratulate ourselves as a nation."
Sanders also criticized the federal government not doing more to aid less wealthy countries, calling the U.S. "privileged."