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The Bismarck City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to participate in the multidistrict litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, and to be represented by a consortium of law firms — Motley Rice, Ferrer Poirot Wansbrough, Fears Nachawati and McNamee Hosea.

In May, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the nation’s leading manufacturer of prescription opioids, to recover damages the state has suffered from opioid addiction.

Last week, Bismarck received a presentation from the firms to see if it also could recover damages.

As part of their presentation, the firms stated Bismarck is one of the largest opioid prescription abuse cities in the nation.

“It’s kind of staggering that Bismarck, North Dakota, is ranked sixth of the top 25 cities in the country for opioid use,” said Commissioner Greg Zenker.

There is no financial risk to the city to participate in the litigation, according to City Attorney Jannelle Combs. If the firms recover nothing, they absorb the fees. If there is recovery, those expenses come “off the top.”

After expenses, any recovery that’s received would go toward helping stem opiod abuse, Combs said. The money could be used for treatments, education and resources for police officers.

By moving forward with a third party, the city may not receive recovery from the state, should it be awarded a settlement, according to Combs.

“I don’t see how we could lose here. We’re not going to be out any funding up front. If we end up with any kind of settlement, we certainly know what we can use it for,” said Commissioner Nancy Guy.

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or​


General Assignment Reporter