SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A settlement agreement representing $35 million has been reached in the Sullivan County Baby Doe opioid case.
According to a release from the Offices of District Attorneys General, the settlement has been approved after “more than four years of litigation against U.S. opioid producers Endo Health Soluntions Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.”
News Channel 11 first learned of the proposed settlement from Endo on July 19, 2021. Since then, several Northeast Tennessee government entities announced they had agreed to the proposal.
The release states the agreement in the Baby Doe case is the largest any prosecution has ever reached with Endo.
“We’re pleased to reach this agreement because the immediate outcome is that financial resources will soon be arriving in areas that have borne the brunt of the opioid epidemic,” said J. Gerard Stranch IV. Stranch is the managing partner for Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, the law firm representing Baby Doe and all other plaintiffs in the case.
“Unlike other arrangements, funds from this agreement will be delivered directly to plaintiffs and paid out as a lump sum, not routed into state coffers and doled out over decades,” Stranch said.
The release states that the funds from the agreement will secure the care of Baby Doe and will also be divided among the cities and counties that participated in the lawsuit. The funds going to localities will be dispersed based on population levels.
According to the release, there is no restriction on how the counties and cities use the funds awarded to them.
“The municipalities understand their particular needs better than anyone else, and they can direct these funds to the areas and projects where they are the most needed,” Stranch said.
The funds from the settlement are expected to be available in 30-60 days.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2017. At the time, it was filed as Staubus vs. Purdue and was the first lawsuit to include a newborn baby born dependent on opioids as a plaintiff.
Purdue Pharma was one of the three pharmaceutical companies initially involved in the Baby Doe case. Endo is the only opioid manufacturer still involved after the other two filed bankruptcy.
A later court ruling determined that while government entities could sue pharmaceutical companies in this manner, district attorneys like First Judicial District Attorney General Barry Staubus could not prosecute them.
While they could not prosecute, the release states district attorneys general Staubus, Dan Armstrong and Ken Baldwin continually championed the case. According to the release, no taxpayer funds were spent during the litigation of the case.