Lawsuit seeks justice and restitution for Nashville’s ongoing battle against opioid crisis that has killed over 200 residents in 2017 alone
Nashville, TN—Mark P. Chalos of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP announces that the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (“Nashville”), has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs to recover taxpayer money and resources spent to combat the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the Nashville community.
Opioid drugs kill over 100 Americans every day of the year, costing healthcare providers nearly $80 billion per year in lost productivity and increased social services, as well as for costs of treatment for drug abuse and addiction, and for the unnecessary and harmful opioid prescriptions themselves. Accidental drug overdose deaths, of which at least two-thirds are opioid-related overdoses, are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
The complaint alleges that the defendants “systematically and repeatedly disregarded the safety of their customers and the public” through their misleading promotion and over-supplying of opioids into our communities. Charged by law to monitor and report dangerous behavior, they failed to do so in favor of maximizing corporate profits and increasing their market share.
Simply put, the defendants helped unleash a healthcare crisis with overwhelming financial, social, and lethal consequences in this country. For far too long, the public and governmental entities have been forced to bear the costs of the deadly proliferation of opioids in America. Those responsible should be held accountable for the harm they have caused.
“Our city has been devastated by opioid addiction and all its related harms,” notes Chalos. “What we have seen in Nashville and throughout our region, is millions of pills being sold in communities where there aren’t millions of people. It is time the opioid manufacturers and distributors are held accountable for their wrongful conduct that has destroyed families and cost untold millions of taxpayer dollars in Nashville, across Tennessee, and throughout the U.S.”
The complaint further alleges that Defendants’ marketing schemes — and not any medical breakthrough —rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the floodgates for opioid use and abuse. “Defendants falsely and misleadingly: (1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; (2) promoted the concept of ‘pseudoaddiction’ and advocated that the signs of addiction should be treated with more opioids; (3) exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools in preventing addiction; (4) claimed that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed; (5) denied the risks of higher opioid dosages; and (6) exaggerated the effectiveness of ‘abuse-deterrent’ opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction. Conversely, Defendants also falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no good scientific evidence to support Defendants’ claims.”
The complaint makes it clear that, “Defendants’ efforts were wildly successful. Opioids are now the most prescribed class of drugs; they generated $11 billion in revenue for drug companies in 2014 alone. In an open letter to the nation’s physicians in August 2016, the then-U.S. Surgeon General expressly connected this ‘urgent health crisis’ to ‘heavy marketing of opioids to doctors . . . [m]any of [whom] were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.’”
As the complaint additionally notes, “Defendants in this lawsuit caused the epidemic. Defendants violated the law by falsely promoting highly addictive opioids as safe and necessary, while concealing the true risks of the drugs. Defendants also conspired to manufacture and distribute millions of doses of highly addictive opioids, knowing that they were being trafficked and used for illicit purposes, and recklessly disregarded their devastating effect on the taxpayers and government of Nashville. As a result of the conspiracy, Nashville taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars and countless resources to fight the opioid crisis and deal with its effects on their community.”
The lawsuit is filed against a series of opioid manufacturers and distributors including Purdue Pharma, Cephalon Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco, Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt Plc, Allergan PLC, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Watson Laboratories, Actavis LLC, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and McKesson Corporation and related entities.
Nashville law firm Manson Johnson Conner PLLC is co-counsel on this case.
Ongoing Harm from the Opioid Catastrophe in Nashville
The opioid drug catastrophe has resulted in a flood of opioids available for illicit use or sale in and around Nashville, and it has created a population of Nashville patients physically and psychologically dependent on them. When those patients can no longer afford or legitimately obtain opioids, they often turn to the street to buy prescription opioids or heroin. The harm to these individuals, to their families, and to the communities around them is a continuing tragedy that is straining the lives and resources of everyone involved, including hospitals and health care, insurers, law enforcement and fire and medical emergency personnel, courts, government administration, child and infant care, prisons, and schools and educational facilities, among others.
Relief Sought in the Nashville, Tennessee Opioids Lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges claims for racketeering (Civil RICO), public nuisance, negligence, unjust enrichment, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and civil conspiracy. The lawsuit seeks money damages, as well as triple damages under RICO, as well as a court order against all defendants prohibiting them from engaging in the unlawful conduct detailed across the complaint, including over-promotion and over-supply of opioids in and around Nashville. The lawsuit also seeks the creation of an abatement fund for the purpose of righting the wrongs created by the Defendants and their opioid catastrophe.
The capitol of Tennessee, Nashville is the 24th largest city in the U.S. with a population of nearly 700,000. The city is a center for the music, healthcare, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home to numerous colleges and universities, including world-renowned Vanderbilt University (2014 NCAA Baseball Champions). Nashville’s legendary venues include country music’s Ryman Auditorium, The Grand Ole Opry House, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
About Lieff Cabraser
Recognized as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms” by The American Lawyer and as a “Plaintiffs’ Powerhouse” by Law360, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a 70-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville. Our firm has successfully represented tens of thousands of injured individuals in complex and mass tort litigation, and thousands of patients across America in individual lawsuits over the injuries they suffered from defective prescription drugs. Five times in the last seven years, U.S. News and Best Lawyers have named Lieff Cabraser as their “Law Firm of the Year” for representing plaintiffs in class actions and mass torts.
Mark P. Chalos
Managing Partner, Nashville Office
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP