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Judge dismisses cities' lawsuits against Purdue Pharma; state's case remains intact

Josh Kovner, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Business News

A Connecticut judge has dismissed a series of lawsuits brought by 37 cities and towns against OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and other drug companies, saying they failed to prove the firms were directly responsible for the costly medical and social needs of addicts.

Some or all of the cities and towns are expected to appeal Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher's ruling.

The decision doesn't affect the state's recently filed lawsuit against Purdue Pharma of Stamford, or cases filed in other states.

New Haven, Waterbury, Bridgeport, Bristol, New Britain and 32 other cities and towns were suing 25 drug companies.

"Over the last several years, opiates have had a devastating impact on the lives of individuals, their families, and other loved ones right here in our community," New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said when the city sued in 2017. "These drugs have been abused beyond their original intended use and their misuse has turned into an epidemic affecting all walks of life."

Connecticut ranks among the states with the highest per capita rates of overdose deaths.

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The cities were suing to recover costs, while the state's case rests on consumer-protection grounds -- that Purdue Pharma, for example, deceived doctors about the addictive power of the drug, and rewarded it sales team for racking up OxyContin prescriptions even as overdose deaths increased.

Moukawsher noted the successful federal prosecution of Purdue Pharma, which was based grounds similar to the state's case, but said the cities, in suing to recover money, had to prove direct financial harm.

In that, Moukawsher said they fell short.

"Yes, the cities are governments and they are suing drug companies about opioid abuse ... The trouble is that these matters are ordinary civil-damages cases and face the ordinary rules about who can sue for what," Moukwasher said in his Tuesday ruling.

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