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Supreme court rejects Mobile County claims over opioid crisis

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Supreme Court sided with Abbott Laboratories on Friday and threw out a lawsuit filed by Mobile County against the company over the opioid epidemic.

In an 8-0 opinion in which one justice recused himself, the court agreed to Abbott’s request to end the case, in which the county and its health agencies sued Abbott over the marketing of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, made by Purdue Pharma.

The court agreed with arguments by Abbott Laboratories that county officials waited too long to sue over claims that a marketing campaign wrongly played down the addictive power of the drug, leading to a dramatic rise in hospitalizations for overdoses and deaths.

Mobile Health filed suit against Abbott Laboratories and multiple other companies in 2019 making claims that dated back to 2006 and earlier, the court said. The justices agreed with the company, which argued that the legal time limit for such allegations had expired at least 11 years earlier.

The county, which is among multiple governmental bodies that filed suit over the drug nationwide to recover expenses from treating overdose patients and people addicted to OxyContin, argued that the time limit did not apply because the opioid crisis was still going on when the lawsuit was filed. The court disagreed.

Abbott Laboratories was last involved in marketing OxyContin in 2002, when total sales for the drug reached $1.2 billion, but it was still receiving payments for the work as late as 2006, the decision said.

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