The mother of one of the victims in the Medford pharmacy murders can proceed with her suit against doctors who treated killer David Laffer and his wife, on the theory that continuing to prescribe pain pills to the addicts put the public at risk, a Suffolk judge has ruled.
State Supreme Court Justice William Rebolini ruled in March that the doctors had no duty to control Laffer or his wife, Melinda Brady.
The doctors, however, did have "an obligation to refrain from overprescribing addictive drugs in an irresponsible and potentially criminal manner," the judge wrote.
But the suit -- and two others filed by survivors' families -- could still fizzle because of an earlier ruling that prevents both the families and the doctors from getting Laffer's and Brady's medical records.
Laffer shot four people to death in Haven Drugs on Father's Day two years ago while robbing the pharmacy of pain pills and muscle relaxants. Laffer is serving life in prison for the murders, and Brady, who helped plan the robbery, is serving 25 years.
Laffer killed pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45; drugstore employee Jennifer Mejia, 17; and customers Jaime Taccetta, 33, and Bryon Sheffield, 71.
In addition to Laffer and Brady, Mejia's mother, Antonia Mejia, has also sued doctors who prescribed pills to the couple: Stan Xuhui Li of Flushing; Eric Jacobson of Great Neck; and Mark Kaufman and his employer, Family Medical Care of Bay Shore.
"It's an issue of forseeability," said Mejia's attorney, Raymond Negron of Stony Brook. "The medical field has a big stake in this. They don't like the idea that doctors can be held liable for their patients."
"We disagree strongly with his decision," said Li's attorney, Raymond Belair of Manhattan. "We're certainly going to challenge that."
Belair said Laffer's behavior did nothing to alert Li beforehand. "By the time the unfortunate events in the pharmacy took place, Miss Brady had been discharged as a patient by Dr. Li," he said.
Steven Lubell of Syosset, Kaufman's attorney, also objected to the March 6 ruling, but he said Rebolini's earlier decision preventing both sides from getting Laffer's and Brady's medical records may kill all the suits.
"We need the records to defend the case," Lubell said. "The plaintiff needs the records to go forward with the case."
Rebolini noted that both state law and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibit disclosure of any medical information unless the patients consent. Brady has ignored requests for her consent, and Laffer refused to give his.
"I do not understand what benefit this would be to me," Laffer said in a handwritten response from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate Dannemora. "I have no desire for my medical records to be part of this civil trial."
"Without the medical records, the plaintiffs can't prove the case," Lubell said, adding they can't even prove Laffer and Brady were patients of the doctors.
The doctors themselves can't testify about how they treated Laffer and Brady without their former patients' permission, he said.
The suits by Mejia and Taccetta's children had also sought to hold the Suffolk Police Department responsible for failing to take away Laffer's guns before the murders. Rebolini dismissed those claims last year.