NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — More than 20 hospitals want a slew of documents from a drug manufacturer made public after a Tennessee judge ruled against the company without a trial in a lawsuit over the opioid epidemic, saying the company intentionally withheld records and lied at least a dozen times.
The hospitals, which are in Tennessee and Virginia, filed a motion last week to intervene and make documents from Endo Pharmaceuticals available to them and the public from legal discovery in the case in Sullivan County Circuit Court.
The hospitals in 2019 filed their own lawsuit pending against Endo and other pharmaceutical companies in Tennessee in Greene County, and it’s been transferred to federal court.
The hospitals are now asking a judge to order the release of the documents in the Sullivan County case. The plaintiffs in that case include northeastern Tennessee district attorneys and a baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome due to exposure to opioids during the mother’s pregnancy. The hospitals contend they want to avoid running into the same problems the judge cited against Endo.
“Accordingly, the hospitals, and the public as a whole, have a social and economic interest in gaining expeditious and ready access to the Endo documents and materials produced in this case through the efforts of the Court and the plaintiffs without having to face the burdens, roadblocks and misrepresentations encountered all over again in what has become a nationwide litigation strategy by Endo.”
Last month, Chancellor E.G. Moody entered the default judgment against Endo, a rare move to rule against the opioid firm before a civil trial over its role in the epidemic. Moody wrote that there was a “coordinated strategy” by the company and its attorneys to delay proceedings, deprive plaintiffs of information and interfere with the administration of justice.
The judge said the company produced almost 400,000 more documents after the discovery period closed, despite saying in February 2020 that it had not withheld anything. Many of the records that the company knowingly withheld were highly relevant and in some cases directly contradict testimony by Endo’s witnesses, the judge wrote.
The company has said that it plans to appeal the judge’s orders in the Sullivan County case, calling them “procedurally, factually, and legally deficient.” Endo did not respond to a request for comment on the hospitals’ motion to release the documents publicly.
The judge has set a July 26 start to a trial over how much in damages to award in the case.
Attorney Gary Brewer, who is representing the hospitals, said there’s an “overpowering reason” to unseal Endo’s documents.
“They just don’t want the public to know what they’ve done,” Brewer said in a phone interview. “And they’ve made a fortune out of selling these pills.”