Public Tours Available for Washington County Courthouse

ABINGDON, Va., Sept. 24, 2019 – Washington County residents seeking to learn more about the challenges facing the county courthouse will have the opportunity to visit the facility and ask questions during two upcoming public tour periods.

Tours will be ongoing throughout the day on Tuesday, Oct. 1, and Tuesday, Oct. 15, between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tours will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, last approximately 30 minutes, and be led by Washington County Sheriff’s Office personnel. There is no charge to participate.

“We’re making these tours available so that residents can come in and see the structure and the issues we are dealing with in terms of space, access and security,” said Jason Berry, county administrator. “It also provides the opportunity for residents to talk with someone who works in the facility on a daily basis. We want to make as much information available as possible so that voters can make an informed decision during the November referendum.”

The general election ballot for Washington County will give voters an opportunity to vote “Yes” or “No” on the following: “Shall the Courthouse be removed to 300 Towne Centre Drive, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $30,000,000 for purchase and renovation expenses therefor?”

A majority “Yes” vote will trigger a move to the new site, which is the location of the former Kmart building in Towne Centre. A majority “No” vote will keep the courthouse at the current location.

“We want the public’s input on this matter,” Berry said. “Whether you want the functions of the courthouse to stay where they are or move to a new location, we encourage residents to participate, ask questions, and vote on November 5.”

For more information on the Washington County Courthouse and the upcoming referendum, including contact information and a question submission form, visit www.washcovacourthouse.com.  

###

Proposed Purdue Settlement Bears Positive Effects on Central Tennessee Opioid Lawsuit

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.”

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

—end—

Judge Overturns Dismissal of I-75 Corridor Opioid Suit

Lawsuit against prescription opioid producers to move forward again

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A landmark regional opioid suit brought by six Tennessee district attorney generals against major pharmaceutical manufacturers is back on track.

Judge D. Michael Swiney, Tennessee Court of Appeals at Knoxville, ruled today to reverse last fall’s judgment by Eighth Judicial District Judge John D. McAfee granting multiple motions from pharmaceutical producers to dismiss what is known as the I-75 Corridor opioid lawsuit.

In his ruling, Judge Swiney determined that drug manufacturers can be liable under Tennessee’s Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA), and that the manufacturer defendants did not meet their burden in their motion to dismiss the claim. The case has now been remanded to the Trial Court.

The lawsuit was jointly filed on Sept. 29, 2017, in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, and later amended to also include the Fourth Judicial District.

“This is a substantial victory for the cities and counties represented in this case, and sound affirmation of our complaint,” says Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “The court clearly recognizes the rights of district attorneys to bring suit on behalf of their constituents, and also agrees that pharmaceutical companies and distributors can be challenged under the DDLA — particularly when these companies knowingly inflict harm on the public, as we believe the defendants have done over a span of many years. We look forward to bringing this case to trial and holding these companies accountable for the damage they have inflicted.”

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., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

“The manufacturer defendants knowingly flooded the affected areas with drugs they knew would later be diverted,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “They actively enabled events from the top down for the sake of profit and knowingly participated in Tennessee’s illegal drug market. That is the basis for civil liability under the DDLA, whether the activity happens in a back alley or at a corporation’s headquarters. We look forward to presenting the facts to a jury in the near future.”

The I-75 Corridor suit, which focuses on an area designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), 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.

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

—end—

BS&J Managing Partner Appointed as Counsel to Negotiation Class for National Opioid Litigation

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), PLLC announces the appointment of managing partner Gerard Stranch as counsel for the negotiation class in the pending multi-district national prescription opioid litigation (MDL 2804) in Cleveland, Ohio.

More than 1,500 cases involving U.S. states, counties, cities and other entities have been consolidated into the MDL. The 49 plaintiffs allege that “the manufacturers of prescription opioids grossly misrepresented the risks of long-term use of those drugs for persons with chronic pain, and distributors failed to properly monitor suspicious orders of those prescription drugs ― all of which contributed to the current opioid epidemic.” The defendants include major pharmaceutical manufacturers Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt PLC, distributors McKesson Corporation and Cardinal Health, and major retailers, such as CVS RX Services, Inc.

“I am honored to be appointed to the negotiation class for this complex and pivotal litigation,” Stranch says. “The class provides a tool for the plaintiffs to engage more effectively in settlement discussions, take coordinated action in a comprehensive settlement process, and allocate settlement funds among the entire class at both the state and the city/county levels.

“Throughout this process, it is important to note that the opioid epidemic has impacted rural communities at a much higher rate than urban centers,” Stranch says. “Smaller towns and counties where resources have never been plentiful to begin with are now experiencing disproportionate amounts of suffering. In order to be fair, we should keep in mind that the distribution of settlement funds should accurately reflect the amount of damage inflicted by this crisis.”

Among the six appointees to the proposed class, Stranch is one of three affiliated with a private law firm. The case is currently scheduled to be heard by U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster in October.

For more information about MDL 2840, visit https://www.ohnd.uscourts.gov/mdl-2804.

###

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.

Porter Appointed to Board of Virginia Housing Development Authority

BRISTOL, Va. — Lisa Porter, executive director and CEO of the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority (BRHA) in Bristol, Virginia, has been appointed to the board of the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Her appointment was effective Aug. 9, 2019.

Established in 1972, VHDA was created by the Virginia General Assembly to assist residents with attaining quality, affordable housing. The authority works through public-private partnerships to provide mortgages for first-time homebuyers, as well as financing for apartment communities and neighborhood revitalization efforts. VHDA also offers free homebuyer classes and counseling, and assists people with disabilities and the elderly to make their homes more livable.

“The Virginia Housing Development Authority is dedicated to improving lives and revitalizing neighborhoods by providing quality and affordable housing options,” Porter says. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve on the board and to work alongside Governor Northam and fellow colleagues to help meet the housing needs of residents in communities throughout Virginia.”

A native of Wise, Virginia, and a 27-year veteran of the public housing industry, Porter joined BRHA in 2017 after serving for 15 years as deputy director for the Marion Redevelopment and Housing Authority in Marion, Virginia. Her experience also includes working as grant programs administrator for BRHA, community development coordinator for the Housing Authority of the city of Yuma in Yuma, Arizona, and grants coordinator for the Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority in Lebanon, Virginia.

Porter’s extensive background also includes leadership positions with several industry organizations, including former president of the Virginia Association of Housing and Community Development Officials (VAHCDO), former president of the Little Ten Housing Authorities of Southwest Virginia, Inc., and a former member of the Lick Skillet Housing Rehab Project Advisory Board in Smyth County. She currently serves as chair of the Southeast Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (SERC-NAHRO) Small Agency Task Force (SATF), and is a member of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) SATF, the Housing Virginia Board of Directors, and the Abuse Alternatives Board of Directors.

A NAHRO-certified Public Housing Manager and Section 8 Housing Manager, Porter received a business administration degree from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

For more information, visit www.brha.com.

About BRHA

Located at 809 Edmond St., BRHA is the designated public housing agency in the city of Bristol, Virginia. It is the second-oldest such authority in Virginia, having been founded in 1938 and housing 40 percent of low-income renter families in Bristol. Its mission is to provide safe, attractive, affordable housing and housing assistance, and the opportunity for families and individuals to achieve a higher standard of living. BRHA (www.brha.com) is governed by a five-member board of commissioners that is appointed by the mayor of Bristol, Virginia. The staff is comprised of an executive director and 29 employees. BRHA is a member of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (www.nahro.org).

###

For more information, contact Lisa Porter,

executive director/CEO, BRHA, at 276-821-6251

Washington County Habitat for Humanity Gearing Up for Second Annual Mud Run

ABINGDON, Va. ― The Washington County (Virginia) Habitat for Humanity is giving adults and children another opportunity to play in the mud — while supporting a good cause — by hosting its second annual Mud Run.

Held Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center in Abingdon, the Kids’ Mud Run for ages 15 and under will begin at 9 a.m., followed by an adults’ 5K at 10 a.m. Net proceeds from the event will support the affiliate’s future housing projects.

“Habitat relies on generous supporters to help us provide affordable homes to deserving families in our area,” says Krystal Kayton, executive director of Washington County Habitat for Humanity. “The Mud Run gives us an opportunity to engage members of our community by providing a fun, memorable experience that assists us in carrying out our mission.”

Registration is $55 for the 5K Mud Run and $10 for the Kids’ Mud Run. Event registration and pre-race packet pickup will take place Thursday, Aug. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon and Friday, Aug. 23, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Habitat office, located at 765 Cummings Street in Abingdon. Participants may also register online at athlinks.com/event/habitat-mud-run-239897 through Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 9 p.m. Performance tees are guaranteed to the first 100 registrants, and all runners will receive a gift bag with awards given to the top finishers. Electronic B-tag timing will be provided by We Run Events.

Mud Run sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available. For more information, visit Washington County Habitat for Humanity’s website — helphabitat.org — or Facebook page, or contact Kayton at (276) 258-5469 or kkayton@helphabitat.org.

-end-

For more information, contact Krystal Kayton,
executive director of Washington County Habitat for Humanity,
at (276) 258-5469 or kkayton@helphabitat.org.

Vaughn Named Digital Specialist for Corporate Marketing

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Eric Vaughn has been named digital specialist for Corporate Marketing, a division of The Corporate Image, an integrated communications firm headquartered in Bristol, Tennessee.

In his position, Vaughn is responsible for the development, implementation and results measurement of strategic digital marketing campaigns that increase competitive visibility for clients through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), social media engagement, audience targeting and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Vaughn has nearly two decades of experience in marketing, advertising, SEO, customer relationship management, media relations, graphic design and social media. Prior to joining Corporate Marketing, he served as a commercial services architect at Eastman, where he identified and formulated information technology and design solutions. Vaughn’s background also includes serving as system director of marketing communications, interactive marketing manager and art director for Wellmont Health System.

“Eric’s analytical, creative and results-oriented skill set is unique, and he’s well respected in the marketing industry, particularly in the digital arena,” says Christine Riser, vice president of Corporate Marketing. “He is a key addition to our group as we deepen our digital and traditional marketing capabilities for the long-term benefit of our clients.”

Vaughn earned a Master of Business Administration degree in healthcare administration from King University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design from East Tennessee State University.

“This is a great opportunity for me to contribute to the success of an award-winning organization that is highly regarded for providing its clients with proven results and exceptional service,” Vaughn says. “I look forward to working with the Corporate Marketing team and its many client partners.”

Vaughn resides in Kingsport, Tennessee, with his wife, Christi, and children, Hannah and Caleb.

Established in 1997, Corporate Marketing designs, develops and implements targeted marketing and advertising strategies for clients. Corporate Marketing’s parent company, The Corporate Image, was founded in 1993 and is an integrated public relations and marketing firm that specializes in strategic corporate communications.

– end –

For more information contact
Christine Riser, vice president, Corporate Marketing, at 800-476-7459
or visit the company at
www.corporatemg.com.

Washington County Board of Supervisors to Host Town Hall Meetings Regarding County Courthouse

ABINGDON, Va., July 15, 2019 – Washington County officials have planned four town hall meetings this month to give the public an open forum to offer input and ask questions concerning the challenges and opportunities facing the Washington County Courthouse. County officials will also be on hand to discuss the three potential solutions for the courthouse and the financial costs associated with each.

The first meeting, scheduled for the Harrison and Madison districts, will take place on Monday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the Virginia Highlands Community College Auditorium.

Additional meetings have been slated for each election district, including:

Thursday, July 18, at 6 p.m.          

Rhea Valley Elementary (room to be determined)

Taylor District

Friday, July 19, at 6 p.m.          

Patrick Henry High School Auditorium

Monroe and Jefferson districts

Monday, July 22, at 6 p.m.

John S. Battle High School Auditorium

Tyler and Wilson districts

All meetings are open to all Washington County residents. For courthouse details, resources and contact information, visit www.washcovacourthouse.com.

###

County Officials Seek Community Input on Courthouse’s Future

Residents of Washington County encouraged to ask questions, offer feedback on next steps

ABINGDON, Va., July 2, 2019 – Washington County officials are seeking public input in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing the Washington County Courthouse.

County representatives say the historic building, located on Main Street in downtown Abingdon and completed in 1868, was not designed to support the amount of activity that takes place at the facility, and it’s time to consider options for growth.

“If you don’t visit the courthouse on a regular basis, you may not realize what a busy place it is,” says County Administrator Jason Berry. “The age and design of the structure, which is actually four separate buildings, creates some concerns when it comes to modern needs. We know that changes are needed in order to best serve our community, and we want residents of Washington County to share their thoughts on how we should move forward.”

The county has identified three potential solutions for the courthouse: build a new courthouse, renovate a portion of the current facility and later construct a new courthouse, or adapt and reuse the former Kmart building located on Towne Centre Drive. Estimated construction and financing costs have been provided by Davenport & Company, the county’s financial advisor.

To share details on each option and gather community feedback, the county has launched www.washcovacourthouse.com, which includes additional information about the challenges and needs facing the courthouse, details surrounding each of the three proposed solutions, a schedule of key dates, and a submission form for individuals to share their comments and questions.

Residents will also have the opportunity to attend several upcoming meetings to learn more on the subject. The first, a board of supervisors open house meeting, will be held Tuesday, July 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Auditorium of the Washington County Government Center Building.

Town Hall meetings featuring board of supervisors representatives have also been scheduled in each district, including:

Monday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Virginia Highlands Community College Auditorium

Harrison and Madison districts

Thursday, July 18, at 6:00 p.m.          

Rhea Valley Elementary (room to be determined)

Taylor District

Friday, July 19, at 6:00 p.m.          

Patrick Henry High School Auditorium

Monroe and Jefferson districts

Monday, July 22, at 6 p.m.

John S. Battle High School Auditorium

Tyler and Wilson districts

All meetings are open to all Washington County residents, and additional meetings are currently being considered.

Once community feedback has been reviewed, the board of supervisors will hold a called meeting in late July to vote on whether to include a public referendum on the November 2019 ballot. Options one and three would require a referendum, while option two, the renovation of the existing courthouse and eventual construction of a new facility, would not. If the matter goes to a public referendum, the referendum language must be finalized and submitted to the Circuit Court Chief Judge by Aug. 1.

Berry notes that county representatives have identified three main areas where courthouse operations need improvement, including space, access and security.

“The issues we are facing are not new,” Berry says. “We’ve been studying them for years and asking for guidance from industry professionals.”

According to a 2016 needs assessment performed by Thompson & Litton, an architecture and civil engineering firm based in Wise, Virginia, the current courthouse hosts 47,000 square feet of available space, but needs 88,000 square feet to accommodate current and future activity.

“We have staff members who are using hallways and traffic areas for office space,” Berry says. “Plus, it’s not uncommon for the General District Court to see up to 400 cases in a day. When you have a facility with limited waiting rooms, it creates a situation that’s less than ideal.”

Outside the courthouse, parking is also in demand. The facility’s dedicated lot contains 75 spaces for the 77 employees on staff. Parking on the streets around the courthouse is restricted to two-hour stays, often prompting staff and visitors to periodically leave to move their vehicles.

“This courthouse was completed nearly 20 years before cars were even invented,” Berry says. “The architects and builders never thought about needing a parking lot.”

The facility also presents challenges for law enforcement. Tasked with screening visitors and maintaining an orderly traffic flow between the three separate courts in the building, officers work to ensure that staff, judges and inmates are not using the same parking areas or corridors at the same time.

For courthouse details, resources, and contact information visit www.washcovacourthouse.com.

###

MEDIA NOTE: The attached renderings show tentative looks for Option 3, adaptive reuse of the former Kmart building located on Towne Centre Drive. 

Electro-Mechanical Earns Top Honors in 2019 Cigna Well-Being Award Program

Award Recognizes EMC’s Commitment to Improving Employee Health and Wellness

BRISTOL, Va., June 28, 2019 – Electro-Mechanical Corporation (EMC), a leading supplier of power distribution solutions to domestic and international mining and electrical customers, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Cigna Outstanding Culture of Well-Being Award. Representatives from Cigna and USI Insurance Services presented EMC with the award during a private ceremony at the Bristol, Virginia-based location on Wednesday, June 26.

BRISTOL, Va., June 28, 2019 – Electro-Mechanical Corporation (EMC), a leading supplier of power distribution solutions to domestic and international mining and electrical customers, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Cigna Outstanding Culture of Well-Being Award. Representatives from Cigna and USI Insurance Services presented EMC with the award during a private ceremony at the Bristol, Virginia-based location on Wednesday, June 26.

“Electro-Mechanical Corporation is honored to be recognized by Cigna for our commitment to enhancing organizational performance for a healthy and productive workforce,” says Mike Stollings, vice president of human resources for EMC. “We appreciate Cigna for providing us with the tools needed to benchmark the health and well-being of our employees and their family members, and look forward to continuing our quest for improving quality of life, developing positive lifestyle habits and education, and building a stronger, healthier community for those who help us succeed.”

Each year, Cigna recognizes companies for their commitment to improving the physical and emotional health and well-being of employees through a variety of wellness programs in the workplace. EMC was evaluated on the subjects of leadership, organizational foundations, policy and environment, program implementation and participation.

Since 2016, EMC has partnered with Cigna to provide health insurance for 862 employees and their family members. Thirty-three of Cigna’s clients in its Mid-Atlantic market region, which includes Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., applied for the 2019 award program, and more than 300 applications were submitted by clients nationwide. As the top recipient, EMC’s data will be featured in Cigna’s annual “Let’s Do Well Together” brochure.

“Cigna is committed to improving the health and well-being of our communities across the globe, and companies like Electro-Mechanical Corporation are a true asset in offering a personalized approach to community engagement,” says Cindy Ellis, health promotion manager for Cigna. “It’s gratifying to see our client being recognized for their commitment to creating health and wellness programs, lifestyle management programs and more in order to encourage their employees and family members to make healthy lifestyle decisions.”

For more information on Electro-Mechanical and its divisions, which include Federal Pacific, Line Power and Electric Motor Repair & Sales, visit www.electro-mechanical.com.

###