Judge Denies Big Pharma Attempt to Name Cities, Counties in Opioid Countersuit

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Second Judicial District Chancellor E.G. Moody issued rulings today on multiple motions and complaints related to the Sullivan Baby Doe suit, including consideration of a third-party complaint brought as a countersuit by opioid manufacturers Endo and Mallinckrodt.

The third-party complaint alleged, among other things, that cities and counties could be named as defendants in opioid litigation under the Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA) and held accountable for not allocating enough resources to combat the epidemic. It also leveled claims of accountability at regional law enforcement for not doing enough to prevent prescription opioids from entering the illegal drug trade.

Moody dismissed the significant majority of the suit’s claims, affirming in his comments that the DDLA does not apply to governmental entities or localities, and that outside parties cannot dictate how government entities allocate resources intended for the protection of the public. With specific regard to a list of non-governmental parties that included suspected online drug dealers and pill mills, Moody allowed claims to stand, but stayed proceedings other than to serve notice to defendants.

“We’re very pleased with Judge Moody’s decisions in the courtroom today,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “His dismissal of the countersuit’s central claims shows that they were largely without merit, other than to share information about suspected drug dealers that we have asked them to provide all along. This was nothing more than a stunt by these companies to intimidate others and an attempt to distract from their own wrongdoing. We look forward to the continuation of discovery and to trying the Sullivan Baby Doe suit in court.”

Moody also:

  • Dismissed a request for interlocutory appeal filed by the producer defendants;
  • Granted a motion by the plaintiffs to compel Endo to cooperate in the discovery process, and;
  • Took under advisement requests related to testimony provided by Abdelrahman Mohamed, M.D., pending his deposition in the current case.

For additional facts, resources and documentation surrounding this issue, visit www.tnbabydoe.com.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Knoxville Hotel Group for Alleged Racial Discrimination, Contract Breach

KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J) of Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against White Avenue Hotel Partners, Development Services Group, Inc., and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., owners and operators of the Four Points by Sheraton Knoxville Cumberland House Hotel, located at 1009 White Avenue in Knoxville.

The suit was filed Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Plaintiffs Don Marie and Kyle Jackson filed the suit seeking redress for racial discrimination and breach of contract, which allegedly occurred during their September 2017 stay at the hotel. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ actions violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

“This lawsuit was filed on behalf of a mother and son who came to Knoxville from New Orleans during the mandatory evacuation ordered for the Gulf Coast as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Katia,” said Ben Gastel, partner with BS&J. “When the hurricane activity continued, the Jacksons’ efforts to extend their reservation with the hotel were denied due to their race — despite their ability and willingness to pay in advance, and despite the fact that they were able to confirm room availability through the national desk. The Jacksons were forced to endure discrimination, hostility and ill treatment by the hotel staff in full view of other guests, causing embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress — and at a time when they were particularly vulnerable. This treatment is unacceptable, and violates the federally protected rights of the plaintiffs to exercise and enjoy equal treatment without regard for race or color.”

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • The plaintiffs were discriminated against on the basis of their race;
  • The plaintiffs were denied the same right to enjoy the benefits, privilege, terms and conditions of a contract that is enjoyed by white citizens;
  • The plaintiffs were denied the full and equal enjoyment of the services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of a place of public accommodation; and
  • The plaintiffs’ contract with the defendants was breached.

The alleged discrimination includes:

  • Failing to allow the plaintiffs to remain in the hotel, even though they had a valid reservation and rooms were available;
  • Failing to allow the plaintiffs to complete their stay as required by the parties’ contract and as offered to other similarly situated hotel guests;
  • Using the plaintiffs’ race as an indication of their unfitness to remain in the hotel and evicting them as a result of their race;
  • Calling the police even though the plaintiffs had done nothing wrong, had followed all rules and regulations, and were able and willing to pay their bill; and
  • Mandating that they leave the hotel under police escort in full view of other guests.

“The conduct displayed by hotel staff and management during our stay was appalling,” said Kyle Jackson. “The prejudice and hostile treatment my mother and I experienced cannot be overlooked. We bring this claim not only to try and correct the personal injustices we experienced, but to help bring awareness and ensure that others do not have to suffer the same kind of discrimination.”

The plaintiffs demand a jury trial and judgments that include:

  • Violation of the Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act;
  • Breach of contract;
  • Compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury; and
  • Attorney fees and costs.

Additional information about the suit can be found at www.bsjfirm.com.

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About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)  

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was recently named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against United Community Bank for Alleged Improper Overdraft Fee Practices

KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J) of Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a class action lawsuit against United Community Bank (UCB), a regional bank headquartered in Georgia with locations in three additional states, including Tennessee. BS&J filed the lawsuit with Cohen & Malad, LLP (C&M) of Indianapolis, Indiana.

The suit was filed Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Plaintiff Dennis A. Jones, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated throughout the U.S., filed the suit seeking redress for UCB’s alleged routine practice of assessing overdraft fees on debit card transactions that did not overdraw checking account available balances, along with multiple insufficient funds fees on a single transaction. The lawsuit is brought as a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

“United Community Bank’s improper debit card fee practices are costing Dennis Jones, and many others like him, exorbitant sums and taking away a substantial percentage of income,” said Gerard Stranch, managing partner of BS&J. “Their practice of conducting authorized-positive, settled-negative transactions is deceptive and bears potential impact on all of UCB’s clients. UCB’s customers should be aware of the bank’s practices and the frequency with which they result in significant, unforeseen, personal cost to customers.”

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • UCB breached the terms of its account documents by charging overdraft fees on transactions that were authorized into a sufficient available balance, but whose balances were allegedly insufficient at the time the transactions were settled;
  • UCB breached the terms of its account documents by charging multiple insufficient funds fees on a single transaction;
  • UCB breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing through its overdraft policies and procedures; and
  • UCB engaged in deceptive acts or practices relating to the imposition of overdraft fees on consumers in violation of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.

“It is our hope that Mr. Jones, representing the class on behalf of which this lawsuit was filed, can put a stop to UCB’s unfair and improper fee practices,” said Lynn Toops, a partner at C&M. “UCB’s customers put their trust in the bank to comply with its own promises. Those customers who have been victimized by UCB’s improper practices, in direct violation of the bank’s promises, have suffered considerable financial losses. It is our goal to not only be granted restoration of these improper fees, but to hold UCB accountable for their wrongful actions.”

The plaintiff and fellow class members demand a jury trial and judgments that include:

  • Declaring UCB’s overdraft fee policies and practices to be wrongful;
  • Ordering UCB to cease its conduct regarding overdraft fees;
  • Restitution of all overdraft fees paid to UCB by the plaintiff and classes as a result of the alleged wrongful practices; and
  • Actual and punitive damages.

Additional information about the suit and the firms can be found at www.bsjfirm.com and www.cohenandmalad.com.

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About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)  

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was recently named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.

Judge Denies Big Pharma Motions to Dismiss Sullivan Baby Doe Opioid Suit

Lawsuit against prescription opioid producers set to move forward

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Second Judicial District Chancellor E.G. Moody issued a ruling today on multiple motions filed by prescription opioid producers to dismiss the Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit.

The lawsuit was jointly filed on June 13, 2017, in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts.

Chancellor Moody denied the motions to dismiss, and ruled that the lawsuit can move forward in litigation.

The complaint lists prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and three convicted opioid dealers as defendants. The lawsuit also names Baby Doe, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, as an additional plaintiff.

“We greatly appreciate today’s ruling by Chancellor Moody and his decision to move forward with the lawsuit,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “We see this as an affirmation of our arguments and a victory for our claim, and our team looks forward to trying this case on behalf of the communities represented by the district attorneys. The Northeast Tennessee region has suffered terrible consequences as a result of the opioid epidemic, which has been fueled by the actions of Purdue Pharma and other defendants. We are committed to holding those companies accountable for their actions, and to returning any financial settlement to the communities dealing with the aftermath of their actions.”

The Sullivan Baby Doe suit demands judgment against the defendants for damages, and seeks restitution for the plaintiffs and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

“The nine counties represented in this suit have experienced an enormous influx of opioids over the past several years, stemming from the overprescribing and diversion of pills,” says Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “The resulting illegal drug market that now flourishes in our region has led to huge increases in overdose deaths and babies born addicted to opioids. The defendants knowingly contributed to and participated in the illegal drug market at the expense of families and communities throughout our region. We want them to be held legally and financially accountable here in Northeast Tennessee, where the damage has been done.”

For additional facts, resources and documentation surrounding this issue, visit www.tnbabydoe.com.

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Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings Announces Firm Expansion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), PLLC of Nashville has announced the expansion of the firm and the addition of one new member, David Suetholz, who previously served as head of the Kentucky Department of Labor and as managing partner of Kircher, Suetholz & Associates (KS&A), PSC.

The expansion also includes four additional attorneys, all formerly of KS&A.

“We’re delighted to welcome the talent and expertise of the Kircher Suetholz team to the BS&J family of attorneys,” said Gerard Stranch, managing partner of BS&J. “We look forward to collaborating in shared practice areas and serving a greater number of clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky.”

With the opening of offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, the new BS&J attorneys will specialize in union representation, employment litigation and workers’ compensation. Their collective expertise will augment BS&J’s broad array of practice areas, including more than 65 years of labor union side representation, class actions, employment, shareholder derivative, securities, and other complex cases heard in Tennessee and in federal courts throughout the U.S.

“Our team has a passion for serving the working families of our region and speaking out on behalf of their interests,” said Suetholz. “BS&J shares that passion, and we are proud to continue this important work under their banner.”

Founded in 1952, BS&J is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

For additional information, visit www.bsjfirm.com.

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About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)  

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings Announces Firm Expansion

Nashville firm opens offices in Cincinnati, Louisville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), PLLC of Nashville has announced the expansion of the firm and the addition of one new member, David Suetholz, who previously served as head of the Kentucky Department of Labor and as managing partner of Kircher, Suetholz & Associates (KS&A), PSC.

The expansion also includes four additional attorneys, all formerly of KS&A.

“We’re delighted to welcome the talent and expertise of the Kircher Suetholz team to the BS&J family of attorneys,” said Gerard Stranch, managing partner of BS&J. “We look forward to collaborating in shared practice areas and serving a greater number of clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky.”

With the opening of offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, the new BS&J attorneys will specialize in union representation, employment litigation and workers’ compensation. Their collective expertise will augment BS&J’s broad array of practice areas, including more than 65 years of labor union side representation, class actions, employment, shareholder derivative, securities, and other complex cases heard in Tennessee and in federal courts throughout the U.S.

“Our team has a passion for serving the working families of our region and speaking out on behalf of their interests,” said Suetholz. “BS&J shares that passion, and we are proud to continue this important work under their banner.”

Founded in 1952, BS&J is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

For additional information, visit www.bsjfirm.com.

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About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)  

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally.

Five Additional Tennessee District Attorneys General File Suit Against Opioid Producers

14 district attorneys general representing 47 counties now involved  in fight against fraudulent marketing, criminal pill mills

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts have jointly filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid producer Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Filed Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Cumberland County Circuit Court in Crossville, Tennessee, the lawsuit also includes additional defendants Montclair Health & Wellness LLC (doing business as Special Associates); North Alabama Pain Services, LLC; Mark Murphy, medical director of both pain clinics; David Florence, primary physician at several additional regional pain clinics; and Nathan Paul Haskins, a convicted drug dealer.

According to ProPublica, Murphy was the nation’s top prescriber of oxycodone hydrochloride and OxyContin® to Medicare Part D patients in 2015.

“Tennessee ranks second in the nation for per-capita opioid prescriptions,” says Bryant C. Dunaway, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Thirteenth Judicial District. “Tennessee doctors wrote more than 7.8 million opioid prescriptions in 2015. That’s more prescriptions than Tennessee has residents — men, women and children combined.

“We have experienced a massive influx of opioids into the 19 counties named in this suit. Millions of pills have been overprescribed and diverted into vulnerable populations, resulting in a robust illegal trade, skyrocketing overdose rates, and a growing financial burden on our police, schools, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and taxpayers. The defendants named chose to participate in this process for personal gain, and we intend to hold them accountable.”

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants knowingly participated in the illegal opioid market through the following actions:

  • The producer defendants directed their opioids to the 19 Tennessee counties of the state’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts, while the criminal defendants participated in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts and surrounding areas;
  • The drug producers embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that opioids carried a low risk of addiction and were therefore appropriate for non-acute problems such as chronic pain;
  • The drug producers’ misrepresentations regarding the addictive nature of opioids, as well as the aggressive marketing of their collective fraudulent message, contributed to a market for illegally prescribed opioids;
  • The criminal defendants’ actions of overprescribing opioids generated a significant regional influx of pills, resulting in a robust illegal drug trade;
  • The drug producers’ marketing campaign gave rise to a market for street heroin for addicts who can no longer obtain prescription opioids or afford diverted opioids; and
  • All defendants were aware of the extraordinary volume of prescriptions being written and took no steps to stop illegal prescriptions or diversions.

Unintentional overdose deaths now account for more early deaths in Tennessee than automobile accidents, suicides or homicides, and the vast majority of the state’s overdose deaths involve opioids — nearly 72 percent, as recorded in 2015. Among the 19 counties named, more than 1 million opioid prescriptions were filled in 2016. The same region recorded 550 opioid-related overdose deaths from 2012 to 2016.

“The defendants named in this complaint have either knowingly participated in the illegal market for opioids by purposely misleading the medical community and general public through fraudulent marketing campaigns, or they have overprescribed or diverted pills, or failed to stop the diversion of pills,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), PLLC, the Nashville-based law firm that filed the lawsuit. “The pill mills and dealers involved have written tens of thousands of opioid prescriptions and funneled millions of pills into our communities. The resulting illegal opioid trade has enriched the defendants at the expense of the citizens of Tennessee while causing immense suffering for those who become addicted.”

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks punitive damages against the defendants for their role in flooding Tennessee with illegal opioids, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

The suit is the third such complaint filed in Tennessee in recent months. The first was filed in June 2017 in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, and the second was filed in September 2017 in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro. Collectively, the three complaints represent 14 district attorneys general and 47 counties in Tennessee.

The filed complaint is available for download at http://tnbabydoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Suit3-Stamped-Complaint.pdf.

Background information, including contact information, related bios, complaint documents and media coverage of this issue, is available on www.tnbabydoe.com. This site serves as an information portal and is updated frequently. Media may tag the site and associated social media in postings to be included in future updates.

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Tennessee’s Fourth Judicial District Joins Suit Against Opioid Producers

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — The coalition of East Tennessee district attorneys general that brought an October 2017 lawsuit against several prescription opioid producers has filed an amended complaint in Campbell County Circuit Court.

The complaint now includes an additional plaintiff, District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, who represents Tennessee’s Fourth Judicial District and the counties of Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier. Dunn’s involvement raises the number of districts participating in the suit to six, and the number of counties represented to 19.

The initial lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. was originally filed by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts. The lawsuit named two plaintiffs, known collectively as Baby Doe, by and through their Guardians Ad Litem. Additional defendants named in the filing include the (now-dissolved) Tennessee Pain Institute (TPI), two former TPI employees and a convicted drug dealer.

The amended lawsuit alleges that:

  • The producer defendants directed their opioids to the 19 East Tennessee counties of the state’s Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, while the criminal defendants participated in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts along the Interstate 75 corridor;
  • Purdue Pharma embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that OxyContin® created minimal risk of addiction;
  • As Purdue’s marketing efforts demonstrated success in the form of rapid increases in opioid prescriptions, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and other opioid producers joined Purdue in its fraudulent scheme;
  • Purdue’s efforts and those of the other defendants to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and addictive nature of, opioid drugs led to an opioid epidemic, created an environment for thousands of individuals in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids, and fueled a dramatic increase in Campbell County, Tennessee, and other East Tennessee counties in the number of individuals exposed and addicted to OxyContin, Roxicodone®, Opana® ER and other opioids, and;
  • The producer defendants knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it — choosing profit over people.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region. The suit was the second complaint filed in Tennessee this year against Purdue Pharma and additional pharmaceutical companies. The first was filed in June 2017 in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport.

Background information, including complaint documents and media coverage of this issue, is available on www.tnbabydoe.com. This site serves as an information portal and is updated frequently. Media may tag the site and associated social media in postings to be included in future updates.

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East Tennessee Attorneys General File Suit Against Opioid Manufacturer

Filing seeks damages for actions contributing to area’s opioid epidemic

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — The district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts have jointly filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Filed in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro, Tennessee, last Friday, the lawsuit also names two additional plaintiffs known collectively as Baby Doe by and through their Guardians Ad Litem. Additional defendants named in the filing include the (now-dissolved) Tennessee Pain Institute (TPI), two former TPI employees and a convicted drug dealer.

“The Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which includes the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts of Tennessee, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the nation,” says Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “The 15 counties within these five judicial districts border the Interstate 75 corridor, which has long been known as a major path of transportation for the illegal opioid market. Two of these counties — Campbell County and Claiborne County — have the third- and sixth-highest per capita opioid prescription rates for a U.S. county, respectively.

“In addition to having a terrible effect on the lives of a disproportionate number of East Tennesseans, opioid addiction places an overwhelming strain on our region’s finances,” Effler says. “This has led to increased costs for each of our counties’ policing, health care, rehabilitation, housing and criminal justice systems. We believe there is a direct correlation between East Tennessee’s opioid epidemic and the actions of these opioid manufacturers, and it is our intent to hold them accountable for the damage they have inflicted upon our region.”

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • The manufacturer defendants directed their opioids to the 15 East Tennessee counties of the state’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, while the criminal defendants participated in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts along the Interstate 75 corridor;
  • Purdue Pharma embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that OxyContin® created minimal risk of addiction;
  • As Purdue’s marketing efforts demonstrated success in the form of rapid increases in opioid prescriptions, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and other opioid manufacturers joined Purdue in its fraudulent scheme;
  • Purdue’s efforts and those of the other defendants to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and addictive nature of, opioid drugs led to an opioid epidemic, created an environment for thousands of individuals in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids, and fueled a dramatic increase in Campbell County, Tennessee, and other East Tennessee counties in the number of individuals exposed and addicted to OxyContin, Roxicodone®, Opana ® ER and other opioids; and
  • The manufacturer defendants knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it — choosing profit over people.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s drug market analyses of the Appalachia HIDTA for 2008 through 2011 detail a steady rise in law enforcement seizures of oxycodone (primarily OxyContin) in the Tennessee illegal drug market — 1,069 dosage units of oxycodone seized in Tennessee in 2007 to 4,142 dosage units seized in 2010. In 2015, Tennessee doctors wrote more than 7.8 million opioid prescriptions — or 1.18 for every state resident, placing Tennessee second in the nation for the number of opioid prescriptions per capita. In addition, unintentional overdose deaths, which now account for more premature deaths in Tennessee than automobile accidents, suicides or homicides, increased more than 400 percent from 1999 to 2015 (the last year for which overdose deaths have been calculated). Seventy-two percent of Tennessee’s overdose deaths in 2015 involved opioids.

“The opioid epidemic that is currently ravaging Tennessee, Appalachia and the entire nation did not appear overnight,” says J. Gerard Stranch, IV of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, the Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm that filed the lawsuit. “Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers have purposely misled the medical community and the general public about the need for opioids and their addictive nature, and spent years engaged in an aggressive and fraudulent scheme to push their products into a market of unsuspecting patients and physicians. The resulting opioid epidemic has caused incredible suffering for those who become or are born addicted to opioids, and it is costing millions of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath.”

Tennesseans’ addiction to opioids has created a secondary epidemic of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) that has its epicenter in East Tennessee. NAS occurs when babies are exposed to opioids in utero and then show symptoms of withdrawal anywhere from a few minutes to a few days after birth. According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the number of Tennessee babies born with NAS increased tenfold between 2000 and 2010. In 2016, 26 of every 1,000 East Tennessee babies were born with NAS.

So prevalent is NAS in the counties served by the five judicial districts that the number of babies born with the condition at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital doubled from 2010 to 2011. The hospital, located in Knoxville — the largest city along the Appalachia HIDTA, developed a new set of protocols in 2011 for treating NAS newborns that has been recognized across the country.

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the average cost of care for babies born with NAS is roughly 10 times more than babies born without NAS. The average cost to stabilize an NAS newborn is nearly $63,000, while the average cost for a non-NAS newborn is approximately $7,200. For the entire state of Tennessee, the care for 660 babies born with NAS cost $41.5 million for most of 2013, compared to $4.79 million for the same number born without NAS.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region. The suit is the second complaint filed in Tennessee this year against Purdue Pharma and additional pharmaceutical companies. The first was filed in June in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Background information, including contact information, related bios, complaint documents and media coverage of this issue, is available on www.tnbabydoe.com. This site serves as an information portal and is updated frequently. Media may tag the site and associated social media in postings to be included in future updates.

 

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Asheville-Based Law Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit in Response to Equifax Data Breach

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Burt Langley PC (Asheville, North Carolina) and Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (Nashville, Tennessee) have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Terra Weaver, David Le and similarly situated individuals affected by the Equifax data breach that was disclosed on Sept. 7, 2017.

The suit was filed Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in Asheville.

Earlier this month, Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies, announced it was the victim of a large cyberattack that exposed potentially 143 million Americans’ sensitive private and financial information. Since then, Equifax has also disclosed that the cyber vulnerability exploited by hackers was related to Apache Struts, an open-source software program that is used throughout the corporate world to power front- and back-end web applications, including Equifax’s public website. According to the lawsuit, the Apache Software Foundation, proprietors of the Apache Struts software, had identified a vulnerability in its application in March and promptly issued a patch that would mitigate the vulnerability to cyberattackers.

The lawsuit further alleges that:

  • Despite it being widely available, Equifax failed to incorporate the security patch into its website software, leading to a known vulnerability on Equifax’s servers that allowed cyberattackers to exploit the vulnerability for several weeks;
  • Equifax’s actions were negligent, allowed hackers to gain access to sensitive customer information, and also violated federal law;
  • Although Equifax knew of the vulnerability in July, it waited until September to disclose the data breach, despite many state statutes, including one in North Carolina that requires prompt disclosure to affected individuals of known data breaches; and
  • Equifax’s failure to alert affected individuals in a timely manner was a violation of North Carolina and Georgia state laws.

The lawsuit demands judgment against Equifax for damages resulting from the data breach and seeks injunctive relief requiring the company to improve its data security methods.

“Equifax’s conduct appears particularly egregious as it held sensitive information on millions of Americans and apparently failed to have even the most basic data security measures in place to guard against the theft of that material,” says Katherine Langley, co-founder of Burt Langley PC. “This conduct has caused — and will continue to cause — great harm to millions of people, and we look forward to having our opportunity to use the court system to right this wrong perpetrated by Equifax allowing cybercriminals to gain access to its data systems.”

Similar class action lawsuits have been filed across the country since Equifax disclosed the data breach earlier this month. A federal judicial panel will soon decide whether to consolidate all of these actions within a single venue.

About Burt Langley PC (www.burtlangley.com)

Burt Langley PC provides protective legal services to businesses and individuals in Western North Carolina. The firm offers a wide range of services, including business contracts and transactions, civil forfeiture, commercial and contract litigation, corporate formation, employment law, employment litigation, estate administration and probate, estate planning, family law, guardianships and incompetency actions, legal malpractice, LGBT legal services, and will contests.

About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)   

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was recently named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.

 

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