Judge: City Can Proceed With Lawsuit Against Opioid Maker

SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington city can proceed with its lawsuit seeking to hold the maker of the pain medication OxyContin liable for damages to the community, a federal judge ruled in Seattle.

Everett, a city of about 108,000 people north of Seattle, sued Purdue Pharma in January, alleging the company knowingly allowed pills to be funneled into the black market and into the city and did nothing to stop it.

The city argues the drugmaker should be responsible for social and economic costs.

Purdue Pharma asked a federal judge in March to toss the city’s case, arguing among other things that Everett failed to show a direct link between the company’s conduct and the alleged harms, and that the statute of limitations had passed for the city to pursue legal action.

In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez disagreed with most of Purdue’s arguments. His decision came a week after he heard arguments on Purdue’s motion to dismiss the case.

Connecticut-based Purdue said Tuesday it was disappointed in the decision but noted it was not a determination of the merits of the case.

“We look forward to the opportunity to vigorously present our defense,” the company said in an emailed statement.

The judge did dismiss two of the city’s claims, but allowed it to amend its complaint to address those issues.

“We look forward to presenting our full case before the court,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We remain committed to holding Purdue Pharma accountable for the damage they have inflicted on our community.”

The city said it hopes to recover unspecified costs for the opioid and heroin crisis in Everett, including money spent on law enforcement, emergency medical services and social services.

Everett filed its lawsuit after the Los Angeles Times reported that Purdue had evidence that pointed to illegal trafficking of its pills but in many cases did nothing to notify authorities or stop the flow.

In response to the reporting, Purdue said in a statement that in 2007, it provided LA-area law enforcement information that helped lead to the convictions of the criminal prescribers and pharmacists referenced by the Times.

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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