The family of one of four people killed during the Father's Day holdup of a Medford pharmacy has filed a $20 million lawsuit against a doctor, a pharmacy and a drug company.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in State Supreme Court in Riverhead on behalf of the family of Jaime Taccetta, who was murdered last June inside Haven Drugs by David Laffer. The suit also names the Suffolk County Police Department and former Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.
Taccetta's daughter, Miranda Malone, 16, joined Ray along with her father, James Malone, and uncle Ray Malone.
"I think all this could have been prevented if people did their jobs," Miranda Malone said. "Everyone who is a part of this should suffer the consequences."
Ray said the lawsuit is unprecedented. He said a similar legal theory used to sue gun manufacturers failed, but he believes he will be successful because of the nature of drug addiction, which drives some people to do whatever is necessary to get more drugs, including commit crimes.
Attorneys were mixed on the likelihood of the lawsuit's success. Mark Mulholland, senior litigator at Ruskin, Moscou and Faltischek in Uniondale, called the approach "extraordinarily creative." But he said because there are so many intermediaries between the drug manufacturers and drug abusers, it might be difficult to surmount the legal hurdles.
David Besso, a Bay Shore attorney, said, "It's very possible the lawsuit will get the authorities -- state and federal government -- to address this problem more seriously than they have in the past. That would be a good outcome of this lawsuit."
Raymond Belair, the Manhattan attorney for Dr. Stan Xuhi Li, a Flushing, Queens, physician who was named in the suit, issued a statement Friday, saying his client "looks forward to fighting this case . . . and any other baseless accusations made against him. People are barking up the wrong tree in trying to lay the blame at the door of sincere physicians acting in good faith" when the state can't even keep track of potential 'doctor shoppers.' "
In the statement, Belair said neither he nor Li have read the complaint, but "the record must be set straight."
"You can assume that David Laffer's wife Melinda Brady was discharged as a patient by Dr. Li prior to the events in question for non compliance with his instructions," the statement said. "You can also assume that, according to all state records available at the time of the murders, David Laffer was not engaged in suspicious behavior. This has all been previously reported elsewhere."
The suit names:
Li, who Newsday reported had prescribed Laffer more than 2,500 pain pills between October 2009 and June 2011. In late November, Li was arrested and charged with multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and reckless endangerment in connection with his care of a Queens man who died last year of an overdose. He has pleaded not guilty.
Haven Drugs, where on June 19 Laffer shot and killed the pharmacist, a 17-year-old cashier and two customers -- one of them Taccetta -- before fleeing with more than 10,000 pills. Ray said that Haven Drugs had been robbed at least three times in the 19 months before the killings and that the owner had a duty to protect his customers.
The daughter of Haven Drugs owner Vinoda Kudchadkar said he would not comment.
Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, saying the company had "a duty not to manufacture, sell, distribute and advertise a highly addictive prescription narcotic that has a high potential for dependence."
Company spokesman Scott Stoffel said the company works closely with drug abuse prevention groups to develop programs. In addition, he said, "Vicodin and hydrocodone with acetaminophen medications have been available for more than 30 years and have an important role in pain control."
The suit also alleges that the Suffolk police department failed to take away Laffer's legally registered guns after a Suffolk detective warned the department's pistol licensing bureau about him possibly abusing drugs five months before the shootings.
Laffer, 34, pleaded guilty to the murders in November and was sentenced to five life terms in prison without parole for the four murders and a count of multiple murders. His wife, Melinda Brady, 30, who helped plan the robbery, was sentenced to the maximum of 25 years in prison.
With Sarah Crichton
and John Valenti