National agreement would settle complaints brought against Purdue by cities/counties, but leaves other defendants to be pursued in court
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — A proposed multi-billion dollar settlement and bankruptcy filing by Purdue Pharma in the national opioid multi-district litigation (MDL) is bearing multiple effects on a Central Tennessee opioid lawsuit — including the settlement of complaints brought against the pharmaceutical giant by local cities and counties.
Other manufacturer defendants and distributors remain to be pursued, attorneys say.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Cumberland County Circuit Court in Crossville by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts. The complaint lists 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., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., and alleged local distributors.
“While the agreement — if approved by the bankruptcy court — settles claims made by my office, and on behalf of cities and counties against Purdue, it does not satisfy our complaints against the remaining defendants,” says Bryant C. Dunaway, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Thirteenth Judicial District. “More than one pharmaceutical company helped create this crisis. Mallinckrodt, Endo and Teva played significant roles in the overprescription and diversion of opioids in our region, and Purdue’s actions will not alter our focus on holding them accountable, whether in circuit court or bankruptcy proceedings.”
The Central Tennessee opioid lawsuit is one of three filed in Tennessee by district attorneys general against pharmaceutical manufacturers and other defendants who have contributed to the state’s opioid crisis. In all, 14 district attorneys general representing 47 counties — nearly half the entire state — have joined forces to challenge pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors for their roles in the opioid epidemic.
That show of solidarity has been instrumental in convincing the industry to face up to its actions, says Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J).
“The district attorneys general who have spoken out on behalf of their cities and communities — many of which are rural areas — should be credited for their tenacity in standing up to Big Pharma,” Stranch says. “They are the ones whose offices expend thousands of hours and millions of dollars prosecuting opioid-related crimes, and they were the first to challenge the manufacturers and distributors in court for their actions. It is their right to hold these companies accountable and also to ensure that financial resources are returned to the communities that have been ravaged by years of overprescription and diversion.”
The Central Tennessee suit is expected to go to trial in the near future.
“In the year and a half since we filed this claim, we’ve gathered a massive amount of data on the harmful practices the defendants employed in their pursuit of profit,” Stranch says. “We look forward to sharing this information with the court.”
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