Tennessee AG butts heads with local DAs over opioid lawsuits: 5 things to know

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery on March 16 filed a motion to intervene in three lawsuits brought by 14 local district attorneys general against major drug companies aimed at recouping local funds expended on the opioid crisis, according to a report from the Bristol Herald Courier.

Here are five things to know.

1. The attorneys representing Sullivan, Washington and Hawkins counties brought the lawsuits "on behalf of the state of Tennessee," which, the motion contended, they are not authorized to do. Mr. Slatery aims to take the helm of the legal actions.

"[T]he Attorney General has broad authority to participate in suits when they bear on the interest of the general public," the memorandum of law in support of the motion to intervene stated. "A lawsuit brought in the name of the state that seeks to address the opioid epidemic constitutes such a suit."

2. Slatery sent a letter to the 14 district attorneys March 15, informing them of his legal action. In the letter, Mr. Slatery expressed a shared concern for the damage opioid addiction has caused the state, referencing his office's role in leading a 40-state coalition to investigate opioid makers and distributors. The state attorney general also took issue with the district attorneys' decision to seek outside counsel in the form a Nashville, Tenn.-based law firm. Mr. Slatery argued the attorneys did not have the authority to take such action without the approval of the governor or the state attorney general and contends there is no legal basis for the law firm to be compensated for its efforts.

3. The district attorneys issued a joint response to Mr. Slatery March

"We are disappointed in your attempts to undermine our litigation," the district attorneys general wrote in their letter. "We are also disappointed that at the same time you sent the March 15, 2018 letter, your office filed motions to intervene in each our pending lawsuits and contacted each court to set up unnecessarily expedited hearing dates without prior notice to us or our counsel. These concurrent actions seem calculated to prejudice us in the pending lawsuits and to provoke us, rather than to open a reasonable dialogue."

4. The initial lawsuit filed in June 2017 by three district attorneys general from northeast Tennessee alleged Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Endo International engaged in fraudulent marketing campaigns that downplayed the risks associated with opioids and promoted the widespread use of the medications.

5. Slatery's motion to intervene is set to be heard April 13.

More articles on opioids: 
Adapt Pharma expands free Narcan program for schools: 3 things to know 
Florida law puts 3-day limit on opioid prescriptions for acute pain 
Trump: DOJ considering 'major litigation' against opioid companies

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