NASHVILLE, Tenn.— The Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) has named the opioid litigation team of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J) as the winner of the 2022 Tennessee Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.
The award is bestowed annually on a trial lawyer who is an advocate of a noble cause, who demonstrates superior skill and who has achieved an outstanding result for a client against great obstacles.
The award was presented in recognition of the team’s accomplishments in Staubus v. Purdue, also known as the Sullivan Baby Doe suit, which was filed in northeast Tennessee in 2017. The suit was one of the first to challenge major opioid producers, and the very first to include a baby born with neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as a plaintiff.
Following more than four years of litigation, a $35 million settlement was reached with U.S. opioid producers Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., in July 2021.
“We are honored and grateful to be recognized by the TTLA for work in the Sullivan Baby Doe suit,” said Stranch. “Over the course of litigation we saw Purdue as well as Mallinckrodt declare bankruptcy as a result of claims, and we were able to reach an agreement with Endo. We’re very proud of that agreement because by design, the settlement immediately provided financial resources to those areas of Tennessee most impacted by the opioid epidemic, and funds were delivered to plaintiffs as a lump sum, not routed into state coffers and doled out over decades.”
The agreement is the largest per capita settlement that any prosecution has reached with Endo to date, exceeding a $10 million settlement paid to two Ohio counties in 2019, and $8.8 million paid to the state of Oklahoma in 2020, areas with far higher population levels than the participating counties of Northeast Tennessee. Washington County alone received a payment of more than $4 million.
In Staubus, the payment per capita for the nine counties was $61.40, which is more than 20 to 30 times greater than the per capita statewide settlements by Endo in Texas ($2.20), New York ($2.56) and Florida ($2.93).
Funds were divided among participating cities and counties based on population levels, with many municipalities choosing to direct resources toward addiction prevention and treatment. Funds were also dedicated to the well-being and care of Baby Doe, who is represented by a guardian ad litem.