Judge: Pharmacy shooting lawsuit vs. doc can proceed

In light of the charges against Dr. Stan Li, the Queens doctor who allegedly supplied painkillers to Medford pharmacy killer David Laffer, attorney for the Taccetta family John Ray held a news conference to discuss a civil case against Li and other defendants. Videojournalist: Joseph D. Sullivan (Dec. 7, 2012)

A Suffolk judge has allowed the family of a Medford pharmacy shooting victim to move ahead with its wrongful-death lawsuit against the doctor who dispensed pain pills to the gunman.

In a decision issued last week, State Supreme Court Justice William B. Rebolini said Dr. Stan Li could be held liable for the death of Jaime Taccetta, 33, of Farmingville, even though she wasn't the doctor's patient.

The lawsuit alleges that Li, who operated a pain clinic in Flushing, contributed to gunman David Laffer's pain-drug addiction by over-prescribing pills. That addiction, the family contends, led to the pharmacy massacre.

On June 19, 2011, Laffer entered Haven Drugs in Medford and executed four people before fleeing with thousands of pills. Laffer is now serving a life prison sentence.

Under certain circumstances, the judge said in his Nov. 26 decision, a doctor could be held liable if he doesn't stop supplying controlled substances to addicted patients who cause harm to others.

"A medical provider may owe a duty to protect the public from the actions of a drug addict, and he may be found to have breached that duty if he creates or maintains the addiction through his own egregious conduct," Rebolini said.

The judge issued the decision in response to defense motions seeking to dismiss the suit.

Li, of Hamilton, N.J., was charged Thursday with manslaughter in connection with two overdose deaths, one involving a 37-year-old Long Island man.

"The judge's decision was a one-two punch that was delivered to Dr. Li," John Ray, the Miller Place attorney representing the Taccetta family, said Friday.

Rebolini's decision narrowed the case, barring Taccetta's family from also suing the Suffolk County Police Department and Abbott Laboratories, which makes Vicodin and coproduces OxyContin, two powerful painkillers.

Attorneys for Li and Abbott could not be reached for comment Friday. Suffolk officials declined to comment.

The lawsuit, filed in February, claimed Abbott has a duty to ensure that doctors and pharmacies aren't prescribing or selling painkillers to addicts.

Ray also contended that Suffolk police were negligent for failing to remove guns found in Laffer's house before the murders -- even though a detective had urged the department's pistol licensing bureau to do so.

But Rebolini tossed out the allegations against police and held that Abbott can't be held liable for misuse of its pain medication by a third party, in this case Laffer.

"New York does not impose a duty upon manufacturer to refrain from the lawful distribution of a non-defective product, nor will the courts of this state hold a manufacturer liable for the criminal conduct of a third party over which it had no control," the judge said.

Last year, Li was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance in the case of a Queens man, Michael Cornetta, who died of an overdose in 2010. Li pleaded not guilty in both cases.

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