Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Lieff Cabraser Files Opioid Harm Lawsuit

Lieff Cabraser Announces Filing of Lawsuit on Behalf of Rutherford County, Tennessee Against Prescription Opioid Manufacturers

Lawsuit Seeks to Recover Taxpayer Monies Spent Combating the Opioid Epidemic Ravaging the Rutherford County Community; Rutherford Joins Other Tennessee Counties and Cities Seeking Justice in Rising Tide of Opiate Plague

Mark Chalos, Managing Partner of the Nashville office of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announces that Rutherford County has filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors to recover taxpayer money spent to combat the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the Rutherford County community. The complaint, filed in federal court in Tennessee, alleges that the named opiate drug manufacturers and distributors and their agents deliberately and repeatedly violated federal and state law by widely and falsely promoting highly addictive opioids as safe and necessary, all the while concealing the true risks of the drugs.

The complaint alleges that defendants 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 Rutherford County. As a result of this conspiracy, Rutherford County taxpayers have spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the opioid crisis and manage its devastating effects on their community.

“Rutherford County, like so many other American cities and counties, has been devastated by these manufactured addictions to opioids,” notes Chalos.

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said, “We are at the front lines of this epidemic through our justice system, ambulance services, recovery programs and other county programs. It is our job to protect taxpayer money and address this horrible epidemic that is at our doorstep. This lawsuit is one of the many ways we intend to stand up for the residents of this county.”

Named Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, and additional affiliated businesses and entities.

Kenny Byrd, partner at Lieff Cabraser, stated, “When communities with a few hundred thousand residents receive tens of millions of opiate pills, it’s long past time when the opioid distributors and manufacturers face responsibility for their destructive and wrongful conduct, conduct that has injured tens of thousands and destroyed lives and families in Rutherford County, throughout Tennessee, and across the entire U.S.”

Rutherford County, TN

Rutherford County is the fifth most populous county in Tennessee, home to over 300,000 Tennesseans and includes among its largest employers Middle Tennessee State University,, National Healthcare, and the Nissan Motor Company. Middle Tennessee State University, with an enrollment of more than 22,000 students, is the oldest and largest institution of Tennessee’s public university system. It is the No. 1 producer of graduates for the Middle Tennessee economy and has the state’s largest population of international students.

Devastating Harm From Opioid Addictions Throughout Rutherford County

As alleged in the Complaint:

Opioids are estimated to kill upwards of 100 Americans per day, and cost health services providers billions of dollars per year both in payments for unnecessary and harmful prescriptions of the drugs themselves and the costs of treating the diseases and injuries they cause. 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. Accidental drug overdose deaths, predominantly from opioids, exceed the number of deaths caused by car wrecks or guns. The economic burden caused by opioid abuse in the United States is approximately $78.5 billion, including lost productivity and increased social services, health insurance costs, increased criminal justice presence and strain on judicial resources, and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. Opioid manufacturing and distributing companies systematically and repeatedly disregarded the health and safety of their customers and the public. 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.

The Complaint further alleges that no medical breakthrough or newly-discovered treatment path justified Defendants’ overweening prescription of opioids for chronic pain, but rather that their inflated marketing and sales goals opened the floodgates for expanded opioid use and rampant abuse. “Defendants falsely and misleadingly, and contrary to the language of their drugs’ labels: (1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; (2) promoted the concept of ‘pseudoaddiction’ and thus 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.”

Relief Sought in the Rutherford County Opioids Lawsuit

Rutherford County alleges claims for racketeering, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, public nuisance, negligence, and unjust enrichment, and seeks all legal and equitable relief as allowed by law under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and Tennessee statutory and common law. The Complaint seeks repayment of costs associated with the opioid epidemic in Rutherford County, including actual damages, treble damages, equitable relief, forfeiture as deemed proper by the Court, attorney’s fees and all costs and expenses of suit and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Learn more about Lieff Cabraser’s work in litigation relating to the widespread harm caused across the U.S. by opiate drugs.

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, Nashville, and Seattle. Lieff Cabraser has filed similar cases on behalf of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Nashville) and Smith County, Tennessee, and represents other counties and cities within Tennessee and outside of Tennessee in opioids-related litigation. 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.


Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
Mark Chalos or Kenny Byrd, 615-313-9000