KINGSPORT, Tenn. – A $35 million settlement agreement has been reached in the Sullivan Baby Doe suit, capping more than four years of litigation against U.S. opioid producers Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The agreement is the largest that any prosecution has reached with Endo to date, exceeding a $10 million settlement paid to two Ohio counties in 2019, and $8.8 million paid to the state of Oklahoma in 2020, areas with far higher population levels than the participating counties of northeast Tennessee.
“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, managing partner for Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), the firm representing Baby Doe and participating cities and counties. “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.”
The Sullivan Baby Doe suit, filed in 2017 as Staubus vs. Purdue, was one of the first to challenge opioid producers, and the very first to include a baby born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as a plaintiff.
Under the terms of the agreement, funds will help secure the well-being and care of Baby Doe, who is represented by a Guardian Ad Litem. Funds will also be divided among participating cities and counties based on population levels, with no restrictions on how the resources are to be expended.
“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.
Proceeds from the settlement are expected to be available within the next 30 to 60 days.
No taxpayer funds were expended in litigation of the case, which aligns with the footprint of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts. Accordingly, the suit has been consistently championed by local district attorneys general (DAGs) Barry Staubus, Dan Armstrong and Ken Baldwin.
“From day one, our goal was to draw attention to the damage that addiction causes in communities, especially to the suffering of infants who are born drug dependent,” said Barry Staubus, DAG for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “While there’s no way to ever replace or restore the lives that have been disrupted, the resources from this settlement can help us repair some of what’s been lost and give us the tools to help prevent this from happening again. The pill mills that we have shut down and the settlements we have received send a strong signal that northeast Tennessee is not open for exploitation. We know how to fight, and we fight back.”
The Sullivan Baby Doe suit originally listed corporate opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, L.P., its related companies, and Mallinckrodt PLC, along with Endo. As a result of national scrutiny and prosecution, brought in part by Sullivan Baby Doe’s arguments, Purdue and Mallinckrodt both declared bankruptcy. Endo remained the only active corporate defendant.
“We are thankful for the trust and support that has been placed in our firm by communities throughout northeast Tennessee, and we are pursuing future opportunities to help lift the burden of addiction off of families and rural areas,” said Stranch.
Plaintiffs in the Sullivan Baby Doe case are additionally represented by James Stranch, III, Tricia Herzfeld, Joey Leniski, Ben Gastel and Anthony Orlandi of BS&J.