A Suffolk judge has dismissed one of the lawsuits against the doctors accused of overprescribing pain medication to the husband and wife responsible for the Medford pharmacy massacre.
In a suit filed by the family of murder victim Jennifer Mejia, State Supreme Court Justice William Rebolini ruled this month that neither the doctors being sued nor the plaintiffs had the right to see the medical records of David Laffer, who killed four people inside Haven Drugs on Father's Day 2011 while robbing it of painkillers, or his wife, Melinda Brady, who helped plan the robbery.
Both pleaded guilty. Laffer is serving life in prison without parole for shooting to death drugstore employee Mejia, 17; pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45; and customers Jaime Taccetta, 33, and Bryon Sheffield, 71. Brady was sentenced to 25 years.
Without the parties gaining access to Laffer's and Brady's medical records, the case can't go forward, Rebolini ruled. The Mejia family can't prove the doctors in the case -- Stan Xuhui Li of Flushing; Eric Jacobson of Great Neck; and Mark Kaufman and his employer, Family Medical Care of Bay Shore -- negligently prescribed pain pills to the couple. And the doctors can't show they acted properly, the lawyers said.
"Despicable as their acts were, defendants Laffer and Brady have not waived the privilege of confidentiality that is protected under New York law," Rebolini wrote in his decision.
Brady has ignored requests seeking permission to release her records, and Laffer refused. "I do not understand what benefit this would be to me," he said in a handwritten response from prison. "I have no desire for my medical records to be part of this civil trial."
Although the ruling benefitted his client, Kaufman lawyer Steven Lubell of Syosset said he thought it odd that a murderer's right to medical confidentiality could stymie the case.
"Where did the court get that?" Lubell said.
The Mejia family's attorney, Raymond Negron of Stony Brook, was just as baffled and said he would appeal. "We respect the judge's decision, but feel he has it wrong," Negron said. "I don't think [the medical confidentiality statute] was written so that doctors could commit negligence and crimes and hide behind it. If so, all the doctors in New York will know they can commit all the negligence they want."
Negron said the medical records should have been reviewed privately by attorneys and the judge without becoming part of the public record.
This suit, like those filed by families of Taccetta and Ferguson, was broader before Rebolini's earlier rulings pared it down. The Mejia and Taccetta suits both sought to hold the Suffolk Police Department responsible for failing to take away Laffer's guns before the murders. Those suits are still pending, but the court ruled the police had no special duty to protect the victims from Laffer.