A Connecticut judge has dismissed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and 24 other drug companies brought by 37 cities in the state. The cities and towns, which blamed the companies for the opioid crisis, sought millions of dollars in compensation for emergency response and other services.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled that the lawsuits could not move forward because they were not government enforcement actions. The judge said the lawsuits were filed as “ordinary civil cases” seeking damages for “indirect harm” from the crisis.
Moukawsher said the lawsuits “couldn’t survive” if the plaintiffs are unable to prove that the drug companies directly caused the financial losses they seek to recoup.
“This puts the cities in the same position in claiming money as the brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers of addicts who say they have also indirectly suffered losses by the opioid crisis,” said Moukawsher. “That is to say — under long-established law — they have no claims at all.”
Lawyers said they were still reviewing the judge’s ruling and appeals are being considered.
The ruling is thought to be the first to dismiss government lawsuits in the most recent form of litigation against opioid manufacturers.
Last month, an Ohio judge overseeing more than 1,400 lawsuits by local governments against drugmakers rejected requests to dismiss the claims.
Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, said Moukawsher made the right decision.
“We commend the judge for applying the law and concluding that opioid manufacturers cannot be legally responsible to cities for the indirect harms they claim they experienced as a result of the opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement. “We share these communities’ concerns about the opioid crisis, and we remain committed to working collaboratively, bringing meaningful solutions forward to help address this public health challenge.”
Purdue Pharma has denied allegations that it used deceptive marketing to boost sales of its opioid drug.
Opioid drug manufacturers are being blamed for driving opioid addiction and overdose deaths.