Oxycontin maker missed key court deadline; Conway says it's akin to admitting liability

08/23/2013 07:33 AM

Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma missed a major deadline in the six-year long court case brought by the commonwealth of Kentucky that’s currently being waged in Pike County. And that legal misstep could cost the drug maker in a big way.

Earlier this month, the Attorney Generals’ Office had submitted to Pike Circuit Court its filings requesting evidence in the case. Purdue Pharma, which is represented by several lawfirms including Kentucky-based Stites and Harbison, was supposed to respond to that motion. But lawyers missed the deadline. So Pike County Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs admitted all the evidence the state requested.

“They failed to timely answer those requests for admissions…the judge did just about what any judge would do under our system and our civil rules. Which is if you fail to answer a request for admissions in a timely fashion they are deemed admitted,” said Attorney General Jack Conway, who took over the case after being elected in 2007. “And so they’ve been deemed admitted which puts us in a position that liability is basically established. We’re on to the issue of damages.”

Lawyers for the drug giant have asked for a rehearing on the request for admissions in September, but Conway doesn’t see that going too well for them.

“There doesn’t seem to me at least to be much wiggle room for Purdue Pharma. They didn’t answer their request for admissions. I don’t know if that falls to their lawyers for the problems or for Purdue Pharma themselves – that’s for Purdue Pharma to sort out,” Conway said.

The lawsuit was first brought in 2007 by then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo. The crux of the case surrounds the marketing of the narcotic Oxycontin to doctors in Kentucky and whether the company masked the addictive properties of the painkiller.

Stumbo, who is now Speaker of the House, said he worked for four years as attorney general to find a strategy to bring down “corporate perpetrators” of the scourge of drug addition in Kentucky, particularly painkiller abuse that ravaged Eastern Kentucky for much of the last decade.

“I hope that they are required to pay for every person – every family that they effected in Kentucky by their tortuous conduct. And that would be a huge amount of money,” Stumbo said. “Money won’t solve it. Money won’t bring those dead family members back. Money won’t erase all of the tears that mothers and family members have cried for people with addictions caused by Purdue Pharma’s actions, but that’s the only way we can really bring them to some form of justice is to hit them where it hurts – the pocketbook.”

A panel of federal judges also recently ruled in favor of Kentucky to keep the case in a Pike County court room.


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