News

Crider Named Chair of Baker Health Care Litigation Group

Christy Tosh Crider, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Nashville office, has been named chair of its Health Care Litigation Group, the Tennessee Ledger reports. She will continue to serve as chair of the firm’s Long Term Care Group, as well as the Woman’s Initiative. Crider’s practice is concentrated in the long-term care and behavioral health industries, managing the litigation of numerous long term care facilities around the country.
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Sit-In Demonstrators Arrested at State Capitol

Two of 11 demonstrators sitting in at the governor’s office yesterday were arrested by state troopers, the Tennessean reports. The demonstrators were there to call for the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, and sang songs and prayed in the office until the arrests occurred. The two who were arrested were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, while nine others were cited with trespassing and released.
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AG: Submit Claims for Pharmaceutical Settlement

Tennesseans who paid for the brand-name drug Provigil or its generic Modafinil from June 2006 to March 2012 are being encouraged by Attorney General Herbert Slatery to submit claims, after a court decision last year found the drug’s creator to be a part of an anticompetitive scheme. Originally, the deadline for consumers to file claims was April 13, 2017, but it has recently been extended to June 25, 2017.
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Memphis Lawmaker Goes After Drug Lobbyists

In a state House committee this week, Memphis Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis) railed against drug lobbyists when a bill designed to make oral chemotherapy medication more affordable got held up over a financial reporting amendment, the Memphis Daily News reports. The outburst occurred when Rep. Bill Beck (D-Nashville) proposed a reporting transparency amendment to the bill, which reportedly received blowback from drug lobbyists who threatened to kill the bill. “What chapped me is these damn lobbyists, these pharmaceutical people and the people that think they run this building – and nobody’s voted for them,” Towns said.
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SCOTUS Strikes Down Texas Death Penalty Mental Standards

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas state standards used to determine whether someone is mentally fit to receive the death penalty, the ABA Journal Reports. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the 5-3 majority decision, saying that “adjudications of intellectual disability should be informed by the views of medical experts,” while in the case in question, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals relied on seven evidentiary factors that did not cite “any authority, medical or judicial.” 
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West Virginia Counties Sue Drug Companies Over Opioid Crisis

Attorneys representing several counties in West Virginia have filed federal lawsuits against drug companies and distributors, seeking billions in reimbursements for the devastation opioids have caused in the state, the Washington Post reports. Companies named include McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Walgreens and CVS, among others. The suits are among the first of their kind in the nation and represent a new front in the fight against the opioid crisis. Other states hit hard by the epidemic are reportedly considering similar action.
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Bathroom Bill, Medical Marijuana Nixed for the Year

The so-called “bathroom bill” and a bill to legalize medical marijuana, two much-discussed pieces of legislation, are officially dead for the year in the General Assembly, the Tennessean reports. The bathroom bill, which would require students in public schools to use the bathroom corresponding with the sex listed on their birth certificate, failed to receive a motion in the Senate Education Committee today, killing the bill. Likewise, House sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said yesterday that while a medical marijuana bill had support in his chamber, it couldn’t get the necessary support in the Senate. A task force will study the issue over the summer.
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Next Week: Corporate Counsel Forum

Join your colleagues March 3 for the 2017 Corporate Counsel Forum, with topics ranging from technology's influence on the modern law practice to recent developments in employment law. Speakers will address cyber security and privacy, as well as productivity tools for the present-day corporate counsel. Another session covers the EEOC's new rules on what incentives employers may provide to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
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Tennessee Justice Center Fights for Affordable Care Act

The Tennessee Ledger profiles the Tennessee Justice Center’s fight to protect Tennessean’s access to health care. For 21 years the TJC has been working for all Tennesseans to have access to health care, and now that Congress is considering repealing or replace the Affordable Care Act, the TJC sees this as a time in which many people could soon be without care. “When you get sick and go to the hospital, you’re not a Democrat, you’re not a Republican,” said TJC co-founder Gordon Bonnyman. “You’re a person who needs care.”
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Harwell Launches Opioid Taskforce

A new legislative task force will tackle Tennessee’s growing opioid and painkiller abuse crisis, the Tennessean reports. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, formed the task force to identify strategies to address addition, abuse and misuse of illegal and prescription drugs. The bi-partisan group will be chaired by Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville.
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1st Criminal Meningitis Trial Starts Today

After a lengthy federal probe and two years of legal battles, the first criminal trial associated with the fungal meningitis outbreak caused by tainted steroid injections starts this week, USA Today reports. Victims are watching as Barry J. Cadden, director of the New England Compounding Center, which made the injections, is charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder. Opening statements were scheduled to begin today. About 750 people nationwide were sickened by the injections and 76 died. Federal officials have alleged that the pharmacy did not follow regulations and procedures when preparing more than 10,000 tainted doses of methylprednisolone acetate. Tennessee was the second-hardest hit state, with 153 illnesses and 16 deaths, according to the Tennessean.

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California Dems Hire Holder to Fight Trump Policies

Democratic leaders in the California legislature have hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to advise them on a legal strategy as they prepare for a fight against President-elect Donald Trump and a number of his policies. The group will pay Holder $25,000 a month plus expenses for three months to develop strategies “regarding potential actions of the federal government that may be of concern to the state of California.” Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have talked tough since Trump’s election, vowing to confront his campaign promises to repeal “Obamacare” and deport undocumented immigrants. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Nashville Plans Behavioral Health Center for Jail

The Davidson County Sheriff’s Department has announced it will build a $10 million behavioral health center for arrestees with mental health issues as part of its new headquarters. The separate facility will be the first of its kind in the nation, WKRN reports. According to the sheriff’s department, about 30 percent of jail inmates suffer from some type of mental illness. Leaders believe it is time to find a new way to treat these individuals so that they get the help they need. The center is slated to open in late 2018.

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Baker Donelson, Ober/Kaler Complete Merger

Memphis-based Baker Donelson and Baltimore-based Ober/Kaler have completed their previously announced merger, Memphis Daily News reports. The move creates one of the 50 largest law firms in the nation with more than 1,600 employees in 25 offices across 10 states. The combined firms will retain the name Baker Donelson. However, the combined health practice, now the third largest in the nation, will be known as Baker Ober Health Law with a strong presence in Baltimore, Nashville and Washington, D.C.

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Groups Target Medical Malpractice System

Several medical groups want Tennessee lawmakers to replace the state’s malpractice system with one similar to that being used to settle workers’ compensation claims, Nashville Public Radio reports. One of these groups, the North Carolina-based organization Medical Justice, says it would like to make Tennessee the first state to do away with its medical malpractice system. On the other side of the issue, Andy Spears with Tennessee Citizen Action says the current system works fine and the threat of lawsuits forces doctors to take extra precautions.

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Veterans Legal Clinic Set for Jan. 11

Volunteers are needed for a Veterans’ Legal Advice Clinic scheduled for Jan. 11 from noon to 2 p.m. in Knoxville. The clinic is one of several planned by a group of legal organizations in the city, including the Knoxville Bar Association, the Knoxville Barristers, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Knox County Public Defender’s Office, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans’ Affairs office. It will take place at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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State Human Services Commissioner to Step Down

Raquel Hatter, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, is leaving her post, Gov. Bill Haslam announced yesterday. Hatter will work in the private sector “at the national level” when she steps down in February, according to a news release. Haslam touted Hatter’s work on several state initiatives, but the Tennessean reports that her tenure was marred by ongoing problems with food programs for low-income children, licensed child care centers, vocational rehabilitation and general management issues.

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Merck Wins Record Patent Verdict

In the biggest patent-infringement verdict in U.S. history, Gilead Sciences Inc. will pay $2.54 billion to Merck & Co. for willfully using a patented invention as the basis for its hepatitis C drugs. The Delaware jury deliberated for less than two hours and rejected Gilead’s arguments that Merck’s patent was invalid, Bloomberg News reports. Because the action was found to be willful, the judge could increase the damage award by as much as three times the amount set by the jury, Bloomberg reports.

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Winton to Lead BlueCross Government Relations

Dakasha Winton has been promoted by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to the newly created position of chief government relations officer, Chattanoogan.com reports. In this position, Winton will be responsible for leading all government relations efforts in Nashville and Washington, D.C. Prior to the promotion, Winton served as director of state government relations and associate general counsel. 

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$19.5M Settlement Reached with Bristol-Myers Squibb

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, along with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs and 42 other attorneys general, announced today that Bristol-Myers Squibb will pay $19.5 million to settle claims that it engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices when marketing Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic drug. The suit alleged that the company marketed the drug for use with children and the elderly for conditions not approved by the FDA. Tennessee will receive $399,022 from the settlement, Slatery said.

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Report: Medical Marijuana Returning to Legislature

A pair of Republican lawmakers will be making another go at legalizing medical marijuana this coming legislative session, Nashville Public Radio reports. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a Nashville doctor, and Rep. Jeremy Faison of East Tennessee plan to unveil details of the legislation this week. The two have argued for several years that marijuana can help people with chronic and terminal conditions manage pain. This past fall, Rep. Faison travelled to Colorado to meet with Tennesseans with chronic pain now living there.

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Legislation Would End All Medical Malpractice Suits

The Georgia-based nonprofit advocacy group Patients for Fair Compensation again this year plans to seek legislation that would ban all malpractice suits in the state, the Nashville Post reports. The group’s proposal will be introduced by Sen. Jack Johnson and Rep. Glen Casada, both Republicans from Franklin. The proposed plan would create a patients’ compensation system funded by annual fees charged to doctors. Instead of filing a lawsuit, an aggrieved patient would apply for compensation to an administrative law judge who would assess the claim. The bill, which surfaced last year for the first time, is opposed by a number of legislators and the Tennessee Medical Association.

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Jury: TennCare Provider Violated Dental Company’s Rights

A Nashville jury has unanimously found that DentaQuest, the insurance company administering TennCare’s dental program, violated the First Amendment rights of Snodgrass-King Pediatric Dental Associates when it excluded the company from the state Medicaid network. Lawyers for Snodgrass-King argued that the company was discriminated against based on a speech delivered by one of its dentists, who had been critical of DentaQuest’s administration of the program. The jury awarded Snodgrass-King $7.4 million in compensatory damages and $14.8 million in punitive damages. DentaQuest said it would seek further legal review of the jury’s decision. The Nashville Post has more on the case.

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