A ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court makes it possible to sue opioid manufacturers under the state’s Drug Dealer Liability Act. The ruling clears the way for a lawsuit to proceed that had been filed on behalf of children that were born addicted to opioids. “If the Baby Doe plaintiffs prove their allegations at trial, a jury could reasonably conclude that the Drug Companies knowingly participated in the illegal drug market,” wrote one of the justices while issuing the ruling.
Tennessee has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. While its statewide population is just 6.8 million, nearly 12 million prescriptions for powerful narcotics were written between September 2015 and September 2017. Like most other states in the country, officials are pursuing whatever means they can to try to recoup the state and local funds that were spent cleaning up in the wake of the opioid industry’s onslaught of their communities. While most lawsuits filed by local, state, and federal authorities have focused on victims and those that harmed them, the Tennessee matter is among the first to also take those born into opioid addiction into account.
If dealing with opioid manufacturers as “drug dealers” wasn’t interesting enough, the U.S. Justice Department has upped the ante by suing Walmart, claiming that the retail juggernaut ignored warnings from its pharmacists and filled prescriptions it knew to be invalid. The matter was filed in civil court in the U.S. District Court of Delaware. The government alleges that Walmart neglected its oversight duties as a pharmacy in the communities it served and essentially turned its 5,000 stores into a drug supply and distribution network.
Walmart was quick to shoot back, saying that the lawsuit was a “transparent attempt to shift blame from the [Drug Enforcement Administration’s] well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place.” The corporation went to say that “by demanding pharmacists and pharmacies second-guess doctors, the Justice Department is putting pharmacists and pharmacies between a rock and a hard place with state health regulators who say they are already going too far in refusing to fill opioid prescriptions.”