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Confronting the opioid epidemic

Clark joining other DAs in lawsuit

Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark announced at a County Operations Committee meeting last week he is joining district attorneys general in Tennessee’s Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts in filing a joint lawsuit seeking damages against prescription opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals and other pharmaceuticals.

Clark’s participation in the joint suit means Anderson County, which comprises the Seventh Judicial District, is now playing an active role in the litigation to combat the opioid epidemic.

The suit, filed in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro late last month, alleges that opioid manufacturers directed their opioids to the 15 East Tennessee counties of the state’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, while criminal defendants were involved in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts along the Interstate 75 corridor, which has gained notoriety in recent years as a frequent transportation route for the illegal opioid market; that Purdue Pharma embarked on a fraudulent campaign to persuade physicians and the public that OxyContin created minimal risk of addiction; as Purdue’s marketing efforts demonstrated success in the form of rapid increases in opioid prescriptions, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and other opioid manufacturers joined Purdue in its fraudulent scheme; Purdue’s efforts and those of the other defendants to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and addictive nature of, opioid drugs led to an opioid epidemic, created an environment for thousands of individuals in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids, and fueled a dramatic increase in Anderson County, Tennessee, and other East Tennessee counties in the number of individuals exposed and addicted to OxyContin, Roxicodone, Opana ER and other opioids; and, that the manufacturer defendants knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to “stop the flood of opioids to the region.”

It is the second lawsuit that has been filed in the state this year against Purdue Pharma and other major pharmaceuticals. The first lawsuit was filed in June at a Circuit Court in Sullivan County in Kingsport.

This would be separate from the litigation Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank is considering having the county pursue with law firms Taylor and Knight and Lieff Cabraser.

Both DA Clark and Mayor Frank say the two avenues of litigation would be at no cost to the county to recoup the costs of the opiate epidemic on local government and Anderson County taxpayers. Expenses would be recouped if they win the lawsuit.

Anderson County Commissioners on the Operations Committee met last Monday during this month’s Operations Committee meeting to weigh in on the two options the county has for litigation.

Clark spoke first to the Operations Committee and apprised them he began researching opioid lawsuits earlier this year, interviewed a number of law firms and lawyers, researched their claims and credentials, and even spoke with Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, before arriving at the decision to pursue litigation through the joint lawsuit headed by attorneys general in surrounding East Tennessee counties in an effort to make opiate manufacturers accountable financially for the statewide opioid epidemic.

Clark said he was motivated to pursue the lawsuit because three of his colleagues in upper East Tennessee filed a suit against opioid manufacturers and hired a firm to pursue a claim on two counts, the Drug Dealer Liability Act and Nuisance Theory.

“Important in this issue is the Drug Dealer Liability Act. The Drug Dealer Liability Act was designed to allow District Attorneys and injured persons to file a lawsuit against drug dealers to recover their damages. It allows district attorneys to represent their judicial district and all political subdivisions of the state, counties, and cities within that district. What it essentially does is thrust a unique responsibility on the district attorney,” stated Clark.

Although there is “no one solution to this problem,” said Clark, he assured Commissioners he believes this avenue of legal action would go a long way in preventing “the flow of opioids in Anderson County, Tennessee.”

Commissioner Tracy Wandell, Dist. 1, made a motion to forward to the full board of Anderson County Commissioners at their next meeting a recommendation of support of or to endorse General Clark in his efforts on behalf of the people of Anderson County, and the motion passed unanimously.

At the Commission meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Wandell’s motion for endorsing Clark’s litigation efforts for the county against opioid manufacturers.