Thursday, February 28, 2002

OxyContin suit status argued

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — At least 28 lawyers from several states have invaded the Butler County courthouse to wage a battle in the war over who's to blame for OxyContin's widespread abuse.

        In a hearing that began Wednesday and was expected to continue through Friday, Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Sage is considering whether to certify a lawsuit as a class action against those involved in making, marketing, distributing and selling the prescription painkiller.

        At least two dozen lawsuits claim civil wrongs such as negligence, failure to warn users of known risks, conspiracy to market a dangerous product and failure to render OxyContin ineffective for abusers.

        A Butler suit is “further along than any other (OxyContin) case in the country,” said Attorney Scott J. Frederick of Hamilton, one of several lawyers who joined Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley in filing the action last year on behalf of LaDonna Howland. The Hamilton woman was prescribed the drug for back pain but became addicted, then committed crimes to obtain it.

        Mr. Chesley argued that class-action lawsuits are the only vehicle for ordinary people to fight court battles against major corporations.

        David Cupps, a Columbus attorney representing Purdue Pharma LP, which makes OxyContin, said he doesn't think the case will pass the legal hurdles for a class action.


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