Several local governments are among plaintiffs in the “Baby Doe” opioid lawsuit that was to begin Monday before defendant Endo offered a $35 million settlement.
The Greene County Commission has voted to accept the drug manufacturer’s settlement offer, while the boards of Greeneville, Tusculum and Baileyton are still to consider it.
The groundbreaking civil action filed in June 2017 by three district attorneys general in Northeast Tennessee is widely known as the Sullivan Baby Doe case. The case is named for a baby born addicted to opiates in 2015 at Holston Valley Medical Center. Plaintiffs allege drug manufacturers are responsible for the opioid epidemic in Northeast Tennessee.
The original complaint seeking $2.4 billion in damages listed prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, L.P., along with Mallinckrodt PLC, two Endo subsidiaries, a “pill mill” doctor and other convicted opioid dealers as defendants.
The lawsuit argued the pharmaceutical companies reaped huge profits from aggressively marketing and distributing opioid painkillers.
Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt have since declared bankruptcy. Damages against those companies continue to be pursued in appropriate courts.
A judge ruled in April that Edno was liable without holding a civil trial over its role in the epidemic, a rare default judgment he said he entered because of a “coordinated strategy” by the company and its attorneys to delay proceedings, deprive plaintiffs of information and interfere with the administration of justice.
A trial was scheduled to start Monday in Sullivan County to determine damages. On Thursday, Endo — which was being sued via two of its subsidiaries, Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Endo Health Solutions Inc. — issued a statement saying it had reached an “agreement in principle” to settle the claims against it for $35 million. Endo said the settlement “will include no admission of wrongdoing, fault or liability of any kind.”
The trial has been delayed until Aug. 2 to give the plaintiffs — representatives for the infant as well as the nine counties and 18 cities and towns — an opportunity to decide if they want to accept the settlement offer.
One local government body has voted to accept the settlement. The Greene County Commission voted unanimously this week to do so.
The board discussed the matter in a closed session on Monday before their regular meeting at the Greene County Courthouse.
According to County Mayor Kevin Morrison, the commission listened to a presentation about the settlement given by the District Attorney General’s Office.
“The defendants want to settle this case prior it going to trial,” Morrison said.
According to Morrison, it was the recommendation of the District Attorney General’s office and the legal representation of Greene County in the case, Gerard Stranch of the Nashville firm of Branstetter, Stranch, & Jennings, that the county accept the settlement.
However, a local government is not permitted to vote on any measure in a closed session in Tennessee, so the settlement was approved in the open session under the approval item of old business.
Commissioner Bill Dabbs made a motion that the commission accept the settlement of the defendant under the item of old business, which the commission approve unanimously.
There was no specific dollar amount given as to what Greene County will receive from the settlement.
VOTES TO COME
While Greeneville, Tusculum and Baileyton are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, their boards haven’t yet decided whether to accept the settlement offer.
In Greeneville, Mayor W.T. Daniels said a vote will be coming up soon.
“We’ll do what we have to do, and we’ll listen to the advice of the city attorney Ron Wood,” Daniels said.
Daniels could not yet say whether the vote would occur at the next regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Aug. 3, or if it would happen sooner at a special called meeting. However, he expressed hope that the vote would be sooner rather than later.
“I think we need to get this behind us as quickly as possible,” Daniels said.
Tusculum Mayor Alan Corley said Friday he hadn’t received official notice of the Endo offer.
“If we have received any official notification of that settlement, I have not yet seen it,” Corley said in a statement.
Corley said that since the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Commissioners meeting for July was canceled, a vote would likely be held at the board’s Aug. 23 meeting. It wasn’t clear Friday if an attorney representing the town would ask the board to meet before then to vote on the matter, given the dates set out by the court.
Baileyton Mayor William Kerr could not be reached for comment Friday.
According to the statement from Endo, “The settlement, which remains subject to final approval by certain plaintiffs and the execution of definitive documentation, would fully and finally resolve the case in exchange for a total payment by Endo of $35 million to be apportioned among all 28 plaintiffs in their discretion.”