Judge Returns Opioid Lawsuit to Tennessee State Court

Ruling denies request by major pharmaceutical distributor to remove the case to federal level

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A ruling issued May 22, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has helped clear the way for a 19-county lawsuit against major opioid producers and distributors to move forward in state court.

The ruling, issued by Judge Aleta A. Trauger, denied a motion by McKesson, a pharmaceutical distributor and defendant in the case, to remove the case to federal court. Trauger also denied a joint motion by the defendants to stay proceedings. The case has now been returned to the Circuit Court of Cumberland County where it awaits trial.

Plaintiffs bringing suit against a number of opioid producers and distributors include the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts. Included in that group is lead district attorney for the case, Bryant C. Dunaway, who represents Tennessee’s Thirteenth Judicial District.

“We are very pleased with Judge Trauger’s decision to deny removal of the case to federal court,” says Dunaway. “We continue to work toward our goal of holding the defendants accountable for the deliberate and illegal distribution of Schedule II narcotics in our state, and the damage they have brought to our region as a result. We look forward to trying this case on behalf of Baby Doe and the communities we represent.”

The 2018 suit brings two causes of action under the Tennessee Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA) against producer defendants Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; along with pill mills and drug dealers. Count I is brought on behalf of plaintiff Baby Doe, while Count II is brought by the district attorneys general on behalf of their respective districts and the 19 counties they represent. The suit demands judgment against the defendants for damages, seeks restitution for the plaintiffs and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

“We applaud today’s ruling that ‘when a state such as Tennessee has crafted an independent response to opioid abuse that does not rely on federal law to impose liability, the appropriate forum for such causes of action are state courts,’” says Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J) PLLC of Nashville. “In this case the defendants failed to establish a recognized basis for federal jurisdiction, and we’re very pleased that the way has been cleared for this complaint to move to trial.”

This week’s memorandum and order followed a Cumberland County Circuit Court ruling last February denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case and declaring that the lawsuit could move forward in litigation.

Visit www.tnbabydoe.com for additional facts, resources and documentation surrounding this issue.

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Canadian National Railway Co. Countersues Former Exec, Demands Multi-Millions in Damages

Action prompts filing of amendment to original discrimination complaint

MEMPHIS — On the heels of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former executive of Canadian National Railway Company (CN), the company and two subsidiaries have struck back with their own lawsuit, along with a demand for a seven-figure monetary punishment.

The suit, filed Tuesday, April 16, comes in response to a March 2019 complaint by former General Manager Tracy Miller that outlines CN’s actions of discrimination and interference with his opportunities for future employment. CN subsidiaries Illinois Central Railway Co. (IC) and Grand Trunk Corporation joined their parent company in the counterclaim.

The March complaint filed by Miller, who was employed with CN and IC from 1994 to 2019, alleges that despite his excellent employee record and high regard by his peers, he was passed over for promotion at least five times beginning in 2015, while white employees with less experience and time with the company advanced instead.

Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J) has now filed a second amended complaint on Miller’s behalf, incorporating the retaliatory suit in its argument for evidence of discrimination. The claim was filed April 22, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis.

“Months after Mr. Miller’s departure from the company, CN continues to engage in vindictive conduct against him,” said Joe P. Leniski Jr., attorney with BS&J. “As stated in our second amended complaint, CN only began pressing for the return of resources gained through the exercise of his well-earned stock options once Mr. Miller brought his claims of discrimination — even though CN has been in possession of all facts within their counterclaim for several months. This timing clearly demonstrates an intent to intimidate Mr. Miller for his action in asking to be offered the same respect and opportunities as CN’s white employees.”

Miller’s initial claim, filed in March, alleges that the defendants discriminated against Miller because of his race. Additionally, the claim alleges that the defendants are preventing Miller from accepting employment with Canadian Pacific Railway or other competitors by selectively enforcing a non-compete covenant against him. The suit notes instances in which CN did not enforce similar covenants against six white CN employees who left the company to join industry competitors.

CN’s counterclaim alleges breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and unjust entitlement. It seeks an order disgorging the amounts Miller received from stock options, an award of damages in excess of $1 million, and other damages and fees.

“This is an instance where a multi-billion dollar corporation is targeting the life work and savings of one individual, asking for exorbitant damages in repayment for wages and options that Miller has fairly earned,” Leniski said. “It also attempts to block him from accepting employment equal to his experience, an act that CN should understand is vindictive and unfair, especially in light of their past requirements for in-house training on matters of equal opportunity employment.”

Miller’s initial claim marked the fifth time in 10 years that an employee has brought suit against CN on the grounds of racial discrimination. This comes despite a 2010 consent decree in which CN and its subsidiaries agreed to implement substantial and regular anti-bias training for its Human Resources and management staff.

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 named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2019, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.

Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Canadian National Railway Co., Illinois Central Railroad Co. for Alleged Racial Discrimination, Retaliation

CHICAGO — For the fifth time in the past 10 years, Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Illinois Central Railroad Co. (IC), have been named defendants in a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J) of Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Tracy Miller, who was employed with IC and CN from 1994 to 2019. The suit seeks redress for alleged racial discrimination and retaliation, listing multiple times when Miller, who is African-American and served as a general manager for more than 12 years, was passed over for promotion to the position of vice president of Operations. Instead, the company consistently chose to promote white individuals to that title, despite Miller having more experience and an employee service record that noted he consistently exceeded expectations and was well-regarded by peers.

Additionally, when Miller received an offer of employment with industry competitor Canadian Pacific Railway, CN used a non-compete covenant based on the exercise of stock options to prevent him from accepting the job. The same covenant went unenforced in multiple cases where white executives accepted employment with other industry competitors.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday, March 8, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis, alleges that the defendants’ actions constitute racial discrimination and intentional interference with business relationships. Miller seeks damages in the form of lost compensation and benefits, compensatory damages for the emotional distress and reputational injury he has suffered because of the defendants’ actions, and attorney fees and costs.

“This lawsuit was filed on behalf of a gentleman who demonstrated a consistent sense of company loyalty and who maintained a spotless service record for more than two decades,” said attorney Joe P. Leniski Jr. of BS&J, a law firm focused on labor and employment law. “Mr. Miller did everything that CN asked of him, including moving his family throughout the U.S. and Canada five times in 10 years, all while watching other individuals with less experience be granted the title he sought to earn. When Mr. Miller was presented the opportunity to advance with a different company, CN threatened legal action under a covenant that, to date, has not been enacted against white employees. Because of this, Mr. Miller has now sustained damages in the form of lost compensation, career advancement and reputation. He has also suffered emotional distress and frustration. All of this comes as a result of the defendants’ unlawful discrimination against him, which appears to be based on his race.”

The lawsuit alleges that CN not only refused to promote Miller because of his race, but has unfairly prohibited him from accepting new and better opportunities within the industry he has worked his entire life.

“Mr. Miller takes great pride in his work,” said Leniski. “This is a man who has proven himself successful, reliable and trustworthy over many years of service. In return for his loyalty, CN systematically overlooked him and intentionally held him back when he attempted to better his situation for himself and his family. This is the fifth time in ten years that such a complaint has been made against CN, and we are bringing this claim not only in the effort to restore Mr. Miller’s right to pursue excellence in his career, but to also bring awareness to CN’s actions in the hope that others do not have to suffer the same kind of discrimination.”

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 named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2019, 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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