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Court records opened in pharmacist drug-tampering case

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    NMU         MISSOURI    

    NMU         MISSOURI         Secret Courts         Sep 17, 2002    

Court records opened in pharmacist drug-tampering case

  • Judge unseals hundreds of documents in civil suits after Kansas City newspaper intervenes

A Missouri newspaper succeeded in gaining access to hundreds of lawsuit documents last week when a judge overturned the broad protective order previously granted to the case’s defendants.

Drug companies Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. obtained a protective order April 22 to seal the documents, claiming that they contained trade secret and other confidential information. However, the documents were quoted in several motions that were publicly accessible.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against the drug companies, claiming they were aware that Kansas City pharmacist Robert Courtney was diluting cancer drugs. Additional suits were filed against Courtney’s pharmacy alone. Lawsuits continue to be filed against Courtney and the drug companies.

The first of suits is scheduled for trial Oct. 7. Courtney is also listed as a defendant and is awaiting sentencing under a guilty plea.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lee Wells ruled Sept. 12 that records used in the evidentiary process should be open to the public, reported the Kansas City Star.

This judgment came as a result of the Star’s motion to intervene Aug. 23 with a request to unseal the documents, said Star Assistant City Editor Mike Casey. The Star cited Missouri Supreme Court rule 2.02 that “justice is best served when it is done within full view of those to whom all courts are ultimately responsible — the public.”

The importance of the documents, Casey said, is that the allegations in the October case mirror allegations in many of the pending cases and that both the defense and the plaintiffs have based their argument on these documents.

“As a newsroom, it [the documents] helps us understand in greater detail,” Casey said. “Most importantly, it gives our readers a more complete picture. That’s our mission.”

(Hayes v. Courtney Pharmacy Inc.; Media counsel: Curtis Woods, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, Kansas City, Mo.) AU

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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