NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee Supreme Court cleared the way for pharmaceutical companies to be sued by babies harmed by their mother’s use of opioids.
Seven East Tennessee district attorneys and two children identified as “Baby Doe plaintiffs” sued three drug companies, accusing them of knowingly contributing to the opioid epidemic and knowingly taking part in the illegal drug market.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled unanimously that district attorneys cannot sue the companies.
However, it was ruled that those companies could be held liable under the Drug Dealer Liability Act if it can be proven by the Baby Doe plaintiffs that they intentionally participated in the illegal drug market.
The three companies involved in the case were identified as Endo Health Solutions Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
The case will continue, but the Tennessee Supreme Court found that government entities should have brought the case to the court’s attention rather than the district attorneys.
The attorneys on the Baby Doe case are working for all of the involved counties to take on the case in place of the district attorneys.
Gerard Stranch, managing partner at Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, is an attorney working the case. He said the ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court affirms that everyone, including pharmaceutical companies, can be held liable under the Drug Dealer Liability Act.
“For many years, these companies have attempted to avoid such an outcome by trying to split hairs with every conceivable procedural question,” Stranch said in a statement. “While this ruling adds another round of paperwork to the process, cities and counties have already begun ratifying their involvement and support of this suit.”
The plaintiffs’ names will be changed going forward.