Tennessee counties are joining the list of entities suing pharmaceutical companies over opioids. Smith County is the first to file suit in federal court. Davidson County is likely to follow after approval by the Metro Council Tuesday night.
Smith County claims that it's spent hundreds of thousands of dollars related to the opioid epidemic. The rural community east of Nashville wants payback for law enforcement, health care and even lost productivity of its residents.
"The opioid epidemic has created serious challenges for our county and our government," Smith County Mayor Michael Nesbitt said in a statement. "Our goal is to hold the wrongdoers accountable and to recover taxpayer money that the opioid epidemic has consumed."
San Francisco-based Lieff Cabaser is one of the mass litigation law firms suing companies like Purdue Pharma for pushing opioids and disregarding the risk of addiction.
Attorney Mark Chalos of the Nashville office says it's not that everyone's trying to get a piece of what could be a massive settlement or even jury verdict. He says the more plaintiffs, the stronger the case.
"It helps that there are a lot of people, a lot of entities suing at this point," Chalos said. "It will help level the playing field and the plaintiffs will have a fair shake in court against these multi-billion-dollar corporations."
Chalos says other Tennessee counties will likely join the federal suit, and Nashville's resolution specifically joins Lieff Cabraser's efforts.
Earlier this year, three judicial districts in East Tennessee banded together for a lawsuit in state court. So far, the Tennessee Attorney General has not followed, saying litigation might get favorable publicity in the short term but could get tied up in court for a generation. Rather, he has joined other AGs to launch an investigation into pharmaceutical giants and use their subpoena power to influence a possible settlement in the future.