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Twenty-Two Tennessee Localities File Suit Against Opioid Producers and Pharmacies

Mar 14, 2022

Plaintiffs including the City of Knoxville bring suit against producers Endo, Par, Teva, plus pharmacies including CVS, Food City, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. —  A coalition of 22 East Tennessee localities has filed suit against notable opioid producers and pharmacies, citing years-long practices that fueled a deadly and illegal drug trade through the marketing, over-prescription and diversion of opioids.

Filed March 11, 2022, in the Circuit Court for Sevier County in Sevierville, Tennessee, the suit seeks compensation for damages inflicted by the opioid epidemic, and a halt to the illegal flood of highly addictive and destructive drugs into these localities.

“Even after years of headlines citing increased addiction levels, numbers of infants born drug-dependent and record numbers of overdose deaths, companies like Endo, Teva, Walgreens and Walmart continue to do business in ways that value corporate profit margins rather than individual lives,” said Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), the firm representing plaintiffs in the complaint. “The damage to rural communities cannot be overstated, as their practices directly harm our families, neighbors, health systems, first responders, workforce, economic viability and more – there is no aspect of life that this epidemic does not touch.”

Plaintiffs in the suit include Anderson, Bledsoe, Bradley, Claiborne, Cocke, Franklin, Grainger, Grundy, Knox, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Rhea, Roane, Sequatchie, Sevier and Union counties, along with the City of Knoxville and the Town of Rutledge.

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.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in the amount of $25 billion to cover increased law enforcement needs, the housing, care and rehabilitation of opioid-dependent adults and babies, special education needs, additional jail space, drug treatment programs and more.

Named parties among the defendants include divisions of Endo, Par and Teva Pharmaceuticals, as well as the pharmacies of CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart, and regional supermarket chain Food City, among others. The suit specifically targets such local organizations as Bearden Healthcare Associates, which it claims operated as a pill mill.

The suit alleges that defendants intended to facilitate the marketing or distribution of illegal opioids through campaigns that downplayed the risks of addiction, supplied opioid products far in excess of any legitimate medical need in the communities, violated DEA and FDA requirements and guidelines regarding the monitoring of suspicious orders, pushed prescribers to increase their orders even after receiving reports from law enforcement that the accounts were supplying the illegal market, filed suspicious orders despite knowing that the orders reflected diversion, and more.

“Time and again, we’ve seen these companies look away and deny responsibility for the devastation they are knowingly creating,” Stranch said. “When confronted with evidence of diversion and abuse, they either ignore the reports or work to circumvent systems put in place to protect the public. We look forward to sharing the evidence collected with a jury as this case moves forward.”

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TO READ OR DOWNLOAD THE COMPLAINT, CLICK HERE

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.