A conflict brewing between state and local prosecutors over a slew of lawsuits filed against drug manufacturers ended Thursday as Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery abruptly terminated any role his office might play in the legal actions by those jurisdictions seeking to recover costs associated to the opioid crisis.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s move was carried out in Campbell County Circuit Court in front of Judge John McAffey. During proceedings, a representative from the Attorney General’s office read a statement culminating in the handover of a signed order that reflected the understanding that the state would not be involved in the suits, nor would the District Attorneys would not try to legally commit the state to their lawsuit against opiate makers and distributors.
“The proposed order results from our joint commitment to the people of Tennessee and recognizes that state and local cooperation is essential to combat the opioid epidemic ravaging our state,” Knoxville News Sentinel reported the statement read.
Attorney J. Gerard Stranch IV also submitted to Judge McAfee an order in which the DAs he represents agree they will not try to legally commit the state to their lawsuit against opiate makers and distributors.
Last year, Fourteen state district attorneys general representing 47 counties in Middle and East Tennessee filed suit under the Tennessee Drug Dealer’s Liability Act against opiate makers and distributors.
Big Pharma was already facing lawsuits across the country — sometimes by states, sometimes by counties or cities and sometimes by hospitals and nonprofits. The federal judiciary quickly began funneling cases into what’s known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL.
But Slatery stayed silent, saying he was investigating whether Tennessee should join the effort.
Tennessee, though, is the only state with a law that makes drug dealers monetarily liable for the damage their “products” cause. Stranch is arguing Big Pharma and its partners in the supply chain are drug dealers.
The DAs contend any damages the lawsuit produces under that law would go directly into communities ravaged by the epidemic.