Lawsuits Filed by Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC Featured on “Today” Show

NASHVILLE, TENN. - The ongoing work of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J) received national attention this morning on NBC's "Today" show.

A nearly five-minute segment, titled "Drug manufacturers sued on behalf of opioid-dependent babies," aired in the 8 a.m. EST hour, and was embedded into an accompanying article posted to the "Today" show website, titled "Born addicted: The number of opioid-addicted babies is soaring." Both reports focus on the "high-profile crusade" currently taking place in Tennessee "on behalf of the rising number of babies born dependent on opioids."

The segment and article, produced by NBC Investigative Unit members Hannah Rappleye and Rich McHugh, along with correspondent Ronan Farrow, are part of NBC's weeklong series, "One Nation Overdosed: A Generation at Risk," which provides an in-depth look at the U.S. opioid epidemic.

NBC News visited East Tennessee to examine the impact of the opioid epidemic on the region after a lawsuit was filed by BS&J last June in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport. The suit, filed on behalf of three Northeast Tennessee district attorneys general and Baby Doe, alleges that Purdue Pharma and additional pharmaceutical companies purposefully misled the medical community and general public about the need for opioids and their addictive nature.

The complaint, which helped to elevate the visibility of the state's opioid epidemic, was the first of two filed by the firm this year against the companies. The second was filed earlier this month in Jacksboro on behalf of five East Tennessee district attorneys general and Baby Doe. Collectively, the two suits represent 24 different counties, and each complaint's Baby Doe is the face of thousands born addicted to opiates across the state.

The "Today" segment and article highlights baby Jayden, one of 361 babies born addicted to opiates this past year alone at Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City. East Tennessee is considered to be "ground zero for that crisis, with some of America's highest rates of what's called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)."

The segment also includes an interview with Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee's first judicial district. Staubus' district includes Sullivan County, which has experienced 50.5 NAS cases per 1,000 births - the highest rate in the state for five years running, according to NBC News.

"The pharmaceutical companies had a choice on how they marketed these drugs, how they provided them," Staubus said. "They made their choice. They saw the consequences, and they kept doing it and they kept profiting off of it. I want them to be held accountable in my county, where I live, where this damage is done. I want them to pay, not just financially, but I want them to pay in the fact that there's going to be an accounting, legally, that they did this and they harmed the community, and they're at fault."

The NBC Investigative Unit also spoke with Claiborne County, Tennessee, resident Libby Harris, whose granddaughter was born addicted to opiates.

"It's hard to even explain how devastating it is, knowing that here's this precious baby coming into this world, and she's going to have so much to overcome, just from being born," Harris said.

"Almost every family in this community can speak to the drug issue, either with a family member or someone they know being affected. Who's going to step up and admit that they were wrong about a product that caused this? People made a choice, but I don't feel that they knew the force they were dealing with. I want my family back, and I'll never get it the way it was."

According to the "Today" show, the Tennessee district attorneys and "hope the suits will be an important new weapon in the war on what public health officials call the worst drug crisis in American history."

For more information on Tennessee's opioid epidemic and the filings, visit http://www.tnbabydoe.com.

To view the video featured on NBC's "Today" show, please visit the following link: https://www.today.com/health/born-addicted-number-opioid-addicted-babies-soaring-t116947

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.