By Meg Dickens
District Attorney General Ken Baldwin took the floor during the Thursday, December 17 County Commission meeting to discuss a lawsuit filed against pharmaceutical companies on behalf of Johnson County and eight surrounding counties.
Other counties throughout Tennessee have followed suit and filed lawsuits under the same law firm. A new ruling from the Supreme Court on that night has District Attorneys in need of support from the counties they represent. Johnson County agreed to add its name to the lawsuit officially.
This support is only in name. Johnson County will not have to pay anything and can not be counter-sued in this type of case. Signing this agreement allows the DA team consisting of three lawyers to argue on the county’s behalf and, if they win, Johnson County will receive money to counter effects from opioid and other drug abuse.
DAs put up approximately $4.5 million of their money into the case, according to DA Baldwin.
DA Baldwin explained that the team of three DAs has been going after pharmaceutical companies on the grounds of, in the Supreme Court’s judgment requirement, “clear and convincing evidence that drug companies knowingly facilitated the distribution of opioids in the illegal drug market.” DA Baldwin told the County Commission that companies make enough opioids to provide enough pills for every man, woman, and child to have 100 a year.
“As director of the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, we have been following the lawsuit brought against the pharmaceutical industry for over a year now and are very proud of our community leaders and our county commission for the decision to take a stance in support of this lawsuit,” said Director Trish Burchette. “This will go a long way in repairing the damage drug use from opioids have caused in small rural communities like ours.”
According to DA Baldwin, 95 percent of crime prosecuted in the area is from addicts, and Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester confirmed. The group is seeking billions of dollars in damages for “ravage areas” where drugs have damaged the community.
So far, the team has garnered success. A pill mill in Knoxville recently pleaded guilty in court. The team also charged three pharmaceutical companies, two of which fell into bankruptcy after the fact. This particular case was set for trial in September but was postponed, but DA Baldwin reports they have the next Supreme Court trial case.