KINGSPORT, Tenn. – In a ruling filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court on April 6, 2021, Chancellor E.G. Moody granted a default judgment against Endo Health Solutions, Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in the case of Staubus vs. Purdue, widely recognized as the Sullivan Baby Doe suit.
The judgment details a dozen false statements Endo’s attorneys made to the court, describes a “coordinated strategy between Endo and its counsel to…interfere with the administration of justice,” and holds the companies liable for damages sought, an amount that totals $2.4 billion.
The court has reserved issuing a final judgment on that amount, pending a damages trial. The ruling can be read here.
“For years we have worked to hold major opioid producers and distributors accountable for the long-term damage they have caused in our Tennessee communities,” said Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “We understood from the start that seeking justice for those babies who were born drug dependent and the rural areas that these companies victimized would constitute a fight on the level of David versus Goliath. All those harmed by this epidemic will now see Goliath face justice.”
The Sullivan Baby Doe suit was originally filed June 13, 2017, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee. The complaint originally listed prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo Pharmaceuticals, a pill mill doctor and other convicted opioid dealers as defendants.
The suit was one of the first in the nation to challenge major opioid producers, and the very first to list a baby born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as a plaintiff. The suit claims that under Tennessee’s Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA), if a company engages in activities that facilitate over-prescription and diversion of controlled substances, they can be identified as a drug dealer and held accountable for their actions.
A December 2020 opinion filed by the Tennessee State Supreme Court affirmed the validity of that argument and the ability for plaintiffs to sue on behalf of babies harmed in utero by the opioid epidemic.
As part of the national scrutiny brought to bear on opioid producers and distributors, due in part to Sullivan Baby Doe’s arguments, Purdue and Mallinckrodt have both declared bankruptcy, with claims proceeding against them in related courts. Endo remains the only active corporate defendant.
“After a four-year fight in which Endo has tried to delay, derail and subvert justice, the court has laid bare Endo’s attempts to put their thumb on the scale of justice,” said J. Gerard Stranch IV, managing partner of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, the firm representing Baby Doe and participating cities and counties. “The Court laid out their deceptive and predatory actions for the public to see. This includes a dozen false statements made by Endo and their attorneys and what the court describes as a ‘coordinated strategy to interfere with the administration of justice.’
“As a result, Endo will finally be forced to account for their role in the widespread misery they have knowingly caused in rural counties throughout Northeast Tennessee, which have suffered devastating rates of addiction, overdose deaths and babies being born drug-dependent,” Stranch said. “We look forward to putting our $2.4 billion damage case to a jury and ultimately seeing funds returned directly to these small communities, which have borne the brunt of Endo’s focus on financial gain.”
A hearing to determine further details in the damage case is scheduled for Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Sullivan County Circuit Court.