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Trial date set to determine damages owed in Baby Doe case

Trial date set to determine damages owed in Baby Doe case

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. -- A trial date has been set to determine the damages owed to the plaintiffs in a major opioid lawsuit for the region, nearly four years after it was started.

The “Sullivan Baby Doe” case, formally known as Staubus vs. Purdue, will go to trial Monday, July 26. Sullivan County Chancery Court Judge E.G. Moody, who is presiding over the suit, set the date during a Thursday hearing conducted over Zoom. 

The plaintiffs, government entities and a baby born drug-dependent (the latter is represented by a guardian), are seeking $2.4 billion in damages for the havoc wreaked by the opioid crisis in Northeast Tennessee.

Two of the original corporate defendants in the case, the pharmaceutical companies Purdue and Mallinckrodt, have since filed for bankruptcy. 

Endo, another pharmaceutical manufacturer, is the only corporate defendant left standing--and it isn’t in good standing with the court.

On Tuesday, in a strongly worded order, Moody granted a default judgment on liability against Endo and in favor of the plaintiffs. The decision means that the court has deemed Endo liable for the claims against it. Now, all that’s left to figure out is how much money it owes the plaintiffs in damages. 

A default judgment essentially decides a suit in one party’s favor after the other party “has failed to perform a court-ordered action,” according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. “...subsequently that failure has not only prevented the issue from being presented before the court but also results in the court settling the legal dispute in favor of the compliant party.”

In his default judgment order, Moody said that a dozen false statements made by Endo’s attorneys to the court and repeated, willful attempts by the defense to delay and corrupt the legal process, influenced his decision.

“The Court has found that Endo knowingly participated in the illegal drug market in violation of Tennessee’s Drug Dealer Liability Act,” Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, the firm representing Baby Doe and participating cities and counties, said in a Wednesday statement. “We look forward to presenting to a jury the amount of damage that this illegal conduct has caused to the governmental plaintiffs and to Baby Doe….”

But Brigid Carpenter, managing shareholder of Baker Donelson, the firm representing Endo in the suit, said that Endo intends to appeal the default judgment order, along with another order Moody issued Tuesday that rejected Endo’s request to have the case dismissed.

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