Saturday, August 31, 2002

OxyContin suit may be tried in Butler

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — If a judge's ruling stands, Butler County could become the nation's first venue where a statewide class-action lawsuit involving OxyContin proceeds.

        In a decision released Friday afternoon, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Sage said Cincinnati's Stanley Chesley and other lawyers could represent all Ohioans who claim they were harmed by the powerful painkiller, either by taking it by prescription or by others' use or abuse of the drug.

        The suit would exclude people who obtained OxyContin illegally. But it could include thousands of plaintiffs seeking monetary damages from those who made, marketed, sold and distributed the drug.

        “The abuse, intentional or accidental, of OxyContin, has created a significant health crisis for Ohio citizens,” the judge wrote in his 24-page decision. “Numerous individuals have been injured, have died or had their health, safety and well-being detrimentally affected as a result of OxyContin.”

        Mr. Chesley's law firm said Judge Sage's ruling was believed to be the nation's first certified statewide class-action suit against OxyContin.

        The Chesley team claims the drug companies irresponsibly marketed OxyContin for wide use “despite knowing that OxyContin was unsuited for most patients.”

        The defendants denied the allegations and argued OxyContin should be challenged one person at time because users' situations vary.

        But Judge Sage said there were “common questions relating to the defendants' alleged wrongful conduct.”

        The judge's order could be appealed; the case is expected to take months to conclude.


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