A Tennessee chancery court judge ruled on Tuesday that the opioid abuse lawsuit filed by the Shelby County Commission earlier this month against several pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, and distributors can proceed, but gave Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell until the end of the year to intervene.
“I am pleased the judge ruled that the opioid lawsuit would go forward,” Shelby County Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer tells The Tennessee Star in an exclusive interview.
“The commission’s whole objective in this is to help the citizens of West Tennessee out of this horrible mess,” she adds.
“This lawsuit is one of many actions we are taking to stop our communities being flooded with these extremely addictive drugs,” Shafer says.
“The end of the year. That is the timeline that was set by a chancery court judge as to when the Shelby County Mayor’s administration needs to intervene in a lawsuit county commissioners filed against opioid makers,” WREG reported about Tuesday’s ruling.
“I think he was clear he believes going forward it’s in the public’s best interest for the lawsuit to move forward,” attorney Allan Wade, who “spoke on behalf of the commission in court,” told WREG.
“We’ve never objected them getting in it. If they want to hire their own lawyers – hire their own lawyers . . . The public is hemorrhaging money, the taxpayers are hemorrhaging money,” Wade added.
“Mayor Mark Luttrell said while he has not read the decision by the judge after speaking with the attorney representing his office – he believes it reflects their stance as well,” WREG reported.
The circumstances surrounding the lawsuit have been controversial.
After the Shelby County Commission filed the lawsuit earlier this month, Shelby County Mayor Luttrell sued all thirteen Shelby County Commissioners in their official capacity, and Shelby County Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer individually to stop the lawsuit.
The judge’s decision today did not stop the Shelby County Commission’s lawsuit, as Luttrell had hoped it would.
Luttrell’s efforts to stop the lawsuit are puzzling, given the reputation of the New York City law firm hired by the Commission and the strong arguments presented in the case, as filed.
The Shelby County Mayor argues that under the county charter the executive branch, rather than the legislative branch, has the sole authority to file lawsuits, an argument vigorously disputed by the County Commission.