As Shelbyville approved a resolution for the settlement in the National Opioid Litigation against distributors and Johnson & Johnson, Bedford County has hired the Branstetter law firm to handle …
As Shelbyville approved a resolution for the settlement in the National Opioid Litigation against distributors and Johnson & Johnson, Bedford County has hired the Branstetter law firm to handle its involvement.
The City and County will benefit from being involved in this opioid lawsuit by receiving a monetary damage award as part of the settlements, according to City Attorney Ginger B. Shofner.
Right now, there is a proposed “massive” collaborative settlement for Tennessee’s lawsuits as well as other states with similar lawsuits. It is a nationwide settlement in that sense, Shofner explained. These are a settlement with certain distributors and a settlement with manufacturer Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The City and the County were automatically included in the District Attorney’s lawsuit under the Tennessee Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA), said Shofner.
“Our D.A. for the 17th Judicial District, Robert Carter, brought suit for all government entities in his district, back in 2017...joining in with district attorneys from other districts,” said Shofner. According to the Tennessee District Attorney General Conference website, Carter’s four main areas of focus are victims’ service, prescription drug abuse, methamphetamine awareness, and elder abuse.
Shofner said she believes there were a total of three lawsuits involving D.A.’s across the State, so that most likely everyone in Tennessee was involved.
“As a part of one of those three D.A. lawsuits, the issue of the requirement of affirmative action by the local governments to be represented by the D.A. and the law firm he hired went up the Tennessee Supreme Court. The justices ruled that each local government had to agree to be included in the lawsuit and represented by the D.A. and Branstetter,” Shofner explained.
So, in December 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that drug companies may be sued under the state’s DDLA but not by district attorneys general.
As ruled in Jared Effler v. Purdue Pharma L.P. in 2020, “The Act specifically identifies those who can file a lawsuit, which does not include District Attorneys General suing as individual plaintiffs on behalf of their districts,” according to the Tennessee State Court’s government website. The case brought the issue of whether, under DDLA, drug companies that manufacture prescription opioids may be sued by children harmed by their mothers’ use of opioids.
Both the City and the County agreed to continue to be in the lawsuit after the Supreme Court ruled local governments have to specifically approve to be in and represented, Shofner said.
She further explained that Branstetter did not reach out as in singling out the County for a particular reason. D.A. Carter hired the firm originally to assist him in bringing the lawsuit.
“...That law firm has been representing most local governments all along. The resolutions to hire the firm can be viewed as formalities due to the Supreme Court ruling. Of course, a local government could hire someone else, but I think few have,” said Shofner.
Shelbyville City Council approved participation in those two settlements at its regular Council meeting last Tuesday. Bedford County Commissioners voted to join with the Branstetter firm at their regular meeting on Dec. 14.
But, “We do not know at this time the exact amount of money the City might receive,” said Shofner. The T-G will have continuing coverage of this issue.
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