The family of one of four people killed in a Long Island pharmacy holdup filed a $20 million lawsuit Thursday, alleging that a drug company that manufactures painkillers, a physician accused of improperly distributing the drugs, police officials and others were responsible for the victim's death.
"Everyone that's a part of this should suffer the consequences," said Miranda Malone, the teenage daughter of murder victim Jamie Taccetta. "If they would have done their jobs right, this could have been prevented."
Attorney John Ray filed the lawsuit on behalf of the daughters of Taccetta. The mother of two was one of four people murdered inside Haven Drugs.
"They wish to ensure that everybody and anybody who did anything to harm their mother should be held liable and should have to pay," Ray said at a press conference Thursday.
Taccetta and three others were killed by a gunman who walked into the pharmacy and opened fire, then stuffed a backpack full of painkillers and fleeing. David Laffer was arrested days later and has since pleaded guilty to murder; he is serving consecutive life-without-parole sentences. His wife, who admitted driving the getaway car, is serving 25 years in prison.
But Miranda Malone and her family feel more need to be held responsible.
"Every one of the defendants knew they were creating a public nuisance," said Ray.
The killings raised alarms nationwide about the growing problem of prescription painkiller abuse and prompted several follow-up investigations, both by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the local district attorney's office, which has empaneled a grand jury to investigate physicians who may be improperly prescribing the medication.
The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Riverhead, N.Y., accused drug maker Abbott Laboratories of failing to monitor the distribution of painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. Ray said the company should have been aware that some physicians were prescribing inordinate amounts of the painkillers.
In a statement, company spokesman Scott Stoffel said,"Vicodin and hydrocodone... have been available for more than 30 years and have an important role in pain control. Abbott works closely with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America... and other experts to develop education, monitoring and intervention programs."
The Suffolk County police department and its former commissioner, Richard Dormer, are named as defendants because, Ray said, officers failed to follow through on an investigation of a theft reported by Laffer's mother prior to the killings. An officer had learned during the theft investigation that Laffer had been issued a pistol permit, and although the officer recommended that he be the subject of a follow-up investigation, no further action appears to have been taken.
Dormer said when the revelations came to light in September that the police department had no legal basis to follow up on the officer's recommendation to investigate further. He noted that Laffer had no prior criminal record at the time.
A spokeswoman said the police department does not comment on pending litigation.
Also named in the lawsuit is the owner of Haven Drugs. Ray said that owner Vinoda Kudchadkar had been the target of three robberies prior to the June shooting, and he should have taken precautions to prevent further robberies, such as hiring a security guard to patrol the store.
A woman answering the telephone at Haven Drugs on Thursday declined to comment.Customers of Haven Drugs called it "unfair" to name the owner in the suit.
"How could you possibly blame them for anything?" said Michele Pulice. "It was a drug addict gone crazy."
Another defendant in the lawsuit is a doctor who is already facing criminal charges of peddling painkiller prescriptions to addicts and drug dealers.
Dr. Stan Li provided 24 prescriptions filled by Laffer, Newsday has reported. Li's former lawyer, Aaron M. Wallenstein, said the doctor had refused to keep treating Laffer, Brady and others. Li made use of a database designed to combat painkiller abuse by tracking patients who seek prescriptions from multiple doctors, Wallenstein said after the doctor's arrest.
Li's current attorney was traveling and not immediately available for comment, according to his office in New York City.
The Malone family acknowledged winning the lawsuit will be difficult; but Miranda Malone said her mom would be proud of her for pursuing the case.
"If it gets taken care of now, it can prevent things in the future from happening."