Tennessee Supreme Court Declines to Hear Big Pharma Appeal on I-75 Corridor Opioid Suit

Lawsuit cleared to move forward in litigation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, Feb. 24, it was announced that the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from multiple opioid producer defendants that would have provided another opportunity for those companies to argue that they should be dismissed from the I-75 Corridor opioid lawsuit.

Instead, the court’s action preserves a previous finding in the court of appeals that the case should move forward, and effectively affirms plaintiffs’ legal theories.

Companies seeking the appeal included Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

“This is a significant milestone in this case and yet another confirmation of our cause,” said Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “For more than two years, these companies have been trying to delay and derail this litigation so that they do not have to confront the obvious results of their predatory business practices. We are determined to hold them accountable for the harm they have caused and return any financial settlement to the Tennessee cities and counties where the damage has been done.”

Following the decision, plaintiffs are advocating for a trial date to be set within months.

The I-75 Corridor lawsuit was initially filed on Sept. 29, 2017, in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro, Tennessee, 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.

The complaint is 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. 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.

Since the 2017 filing, Purdue Pharma, L.P., declared bankruptcy in an effort to settle numerous opioid-related cases nationwide. Claims against Purdue in the case are being pursued in bankruptcy court.

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

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Regional District Attorneys General Outline $2.4 Billion Opioid Recovery Plan

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A cache of reports compiled by expert witnesses in the upcoming May 2020 Sullivan Baby Doe trial will be released, following a push by regional district attorneys general (DAGs) to make the documents public.

The documents, previously filed under seal, outline a $2.4 billion plan by DAGs to help counter the adverse and far-reaching effects of East Tennessee’s opioid crisis. The plan and its estimated cost was developed under the guidance of multiple industry experts, including Scott Hemphill, J.D., Ph.D., who grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, and now serves as the Moses H. Grossman Professor of Law at New York University’s School of Law.

“The amount we are seeking from these opioid producers and distributors is only a fraction of what we have lost in dealing with the problems they created,” says Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District.

The DAGs plan spans a 15-year period and focuses on support for area law enforcement, a comprehensive treatment system for opioid use disorder (OUD) that includes inpatient and outpatient services, and support services for mothers with OUD and their children. Additional elements address the use of drug courts and therapeutic communities within the jail system to help reduce overcrowding, increased screening for disease, medical monitoring and support for mothers of infants with NAS, and treatment and support for children whose parents or primary caregivers suffer from OUD.

More than 7,000 grandparents in the nine East Tennessee counties represented in the suit have primary custody of their grandchildren, a phenomenon that local officials attribute largely to parental use of opioids.

Other notable facts resulting from the reports include:

  • the disproportionate effect of the opioid epidemic in Tennessee, and particularly in the nine counties represented in the suit, with a rate of 237.5 prescriptions per 100 people filled in Sullivan County in 2010, compared to the national rate of 81.2 prescriptions per 100 people during the same period;
  • a corresponding rate of overdose deaths due to opioids, with a rate of 19.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people (or 1,268 deaths) recorded in the nine counties in 2017, compared to the overall U.S. rate of 14.9 deaths per 100,000 people; and
  • a higher incidence rate of NAS in the nine counties, with 41 cases per 1,000 live births (or 198 infants) recorded in 2018, compared to the Tennessee average of 11 cases per 1,000 live births.

“Law-abiding citizens should not have to bear the cost of cleaning up this opioid catastrophe,” Staubus says. “Our plan will bring much-needed relief to the first responders, teachers, healthcare workers, grandparents, parents and others who are working to address this crisis in our communities.”

The multiple documents made public Thursday include reports from:

  • C. Scott Hemphill, J.D., Ph.D., a graduate of Stanford, Harvard and the London School of Economics who currently serves as the Moses H. Grossman Professor of Law at New York University’s School of Law;
  • Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D., retired co-director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, professor emeritus at the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, and research professor, Center for Behavior and Health, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont;
  • Joel S. Koenig, M.D., former chief of Pediatrics at Missouri Baptist Medical Center;
  • David M. Stern, M.D., Ph.D., former vice-chancellor for Health Affairs for Statewide Initiatives, former executive dean and vice-chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and former Gerald and Janet Carrus endowed professor at Columbia; and
  • Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Public Health and former chief medical officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health.

The Sullivan Baby Doe suit is currently scheduled to go to trial Monday, May 18, 2020, in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Bristol, Tennessee.

Originally, the suit listed prescription opioid producers Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Mallinckrodt LLC; Endo Health Solutions, Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as producer defendants. Since then, Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy as part of a nationwide attempt to settle thousands of suits that followed Baby Doe’s lead. Mallinckrodt and Endo remain active defendants.

For additional facts and information surrounding this issue, visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

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Trial Date Set In Sullivan Baby Doe Suit

KINGSPORT, Tenn. — The Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit is headed to trial.

At a hearing today in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Chancellor E.G. Moody scheduled a trial date of Monday, May 18, 2020, for the region’s central opioid suit and set the venue in Bristol, Tennessee.

The lawsuit, which was the first of its kind in the nation, was jointly filed on June 13, 2017. Plaintiffs include the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts, as well as Baby Doe, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem.

Originally, the suit listed prescription opioid producers Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Mallinckrodt LLC; and Endo Health Solutions, Inc., as producer defendants. Since then, Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy as part of an attempt to settle thousands of suits that followed Baby Doe’s lead. Mallinckrodt and Endo remain active defendants.

“The producer defendants have repeatedly attempted to stop a jury from rendering judgment on their conduct,” says Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “Four Tennesseans are dying of opioid overdoses every day. While the idea of taking on companies of this size seemed like an impossible task to many, the district attorneys general knew that doing so was the only way to try and reduce the number of deaths and NAS births. Their foresight and tenacity has now led to a trial date being set, and we very much look forward to sharing with the jury the data and details we have discovered about these companies’ destructive business practices.”

 For additional facts and information surrounding this issue, visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

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Proposed Purdue Settlement Bears Positive Effects on I-75 Corridor Opioid Lawsuit

National agreement would settle complaints brought against Purdue by cities/counties, but leaves other defendants to be pursued in court

JACKSBORO, 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 what is known as the I-75 Corridor 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 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. 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 Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth 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 I-75 Corridor 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 I-75 Corridor suit will go to trial in the near future.

“In the two years 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.

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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.

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Proposed Purdue Settlement Bears Positive Effects on Sullivan Baby Doe Opioid Lawsuit

National agreement would settle complaints brought against Purdue by cities/counties, but leaves other defendants to be pursued in court

KINGSPORT, 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 East Tennessee’s Sullivan Baby Doe suit — 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 Sullivan Baby Doe suit was jointly filed on 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 lists 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.

“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 Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “More than one pharmaceutical company helped create this crisis. Mallinckrodt and Endo 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 Sullivan Baby Doe suit 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.”

In East Tennessee, the Sullivan Baby Doe suit is expected to go to trial in 2020.

“In the more than two years 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.