N.S. court ap­proves opi­oid law­suit deal

But some claimants say it falls short

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton / Province -

Jayne Turner couldn’t change an out-of-court deal in a law­suit against the man­u­fac­turer of OxyCon­tin on Tues­day, but she had her say be­fore a Nova Sco­tia judge on how the pre­scrip­tion painkiller for­ever al­tered her life.

“I lost a hus­band and every­thing he rep­re­sented . ... All that could have been, never can be,’’ the New Brunswick woman told Jus­tice John Mur­phy, a few min­utes be­fore he ruled in favour of ac­cept­ing a class ac­tion set­tle­ment of $20 mil­lion to be paid by Pur­due Pharma.

Mur­phy be­came the sec­ond judge to ap­prove a set­tle­ment of the na­tional law­suit. With ac­cep­tances in On­tario and Nova Sco­tia, it must now go be­fore judges in Que­bec City and Regina be­fore the set­tle­ment is fi­nally com­pleted.

Turner drove seven hours from Grand Manan, N.B., for Tues­day’s hear­ing in Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court.

Speak­ing qui­etly in the small, al­most empty court­room, Turner told the judge how her hus­band — Robert (John) Turner — started on the pre­scrip­tion painkiller in the late 1990s as part of a study he’d hoped would help him cope with de­bil­i­tat­ing back pain.

It helped the lob­ster fish­er­man haul his gear in the first year, but as the dosage rose he be­came ad­dicted and lapsed into pe­ri­ods of deep fa­tigue and mood changes, Turner said.

On April 30, 2012, Turner fell asleep and top­pled off his lob­ster boat, with a coro­ner de­ter­min­ing his body was cop­ing with a large dose of OxyCon­tin, she said.

Turner was one of nine peo­ple listed by the plain­tiffs’ lawyer, Ray Wag­ner, as ob­ject­ing to the $20 mil­lion agree­ment, with $2 mil­lion go­ing to health au­thor­i­ties and about a quar­ter ex­pected to be as­signed as le­gal fees.

Mur­phy said the av­er­age pay out for be­tween 1,000 and 1,500 Cana­di­ans might amount to be­tween $13,000 and $18,000, de­pend­ing on how many peo­ple qual­ify.

The judge thanked the 51-year-old for her sub­mis­sion and said it, along with a sub­mis­sion by Adam Spencer of Monc­ton, N.B., gave him “pause.’’

How­ever, Mur­phy ruled he would ac­cept the pro­posed set­tle­ment, echo­ing the de­ci­sion of an On­tario Su­pe­rior Court judge that the amount falls within a “zone of rea­son­able­ness.’’

The Nova Sco­tia judge said he ac­cepted ar­gu­ments that if the case had pro­ceeded to trial there were for­mi­da­ble le­gal ob­sta­cles to over­come and it could have meant years more of de­lay in the 10-year-old case.

“If the case pro­ceeds to lit­i­ga­tion, there is a sig­nif­i­cant risk that the claims against the de­fen­dant will not suc­ceed,’’ he said.

The plain­tiffs had ar­gued that the U.S.-based man­u­fac­turer didn’t pro­vide ad­e­quate warn­ing about po­ten­tial ad­dic­tions.

How­ever, Pur­due did not ad­mit li­a­bil­ity in the na­tional set­tle­ment.

In ad­di­tion, Wag­ner — whose firm launched the ac­tion in 2007 — says there were le­gal ar­gu­ments the com­pany could rely on against his case, such as the role doc­tors played in pre­scrib­ing the drug.

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