Carter: Lawsuit

Sep 11, 2018

Vermont’s consumer protection laws are some of the strongest in the country. Intended to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices, these laws are vital for both consumers and business because they protect fair competition in the marketplace. They prevent consumers from being deceived and also maintain honest rules for economic competition.

The Vermont Supreme Court has consistently held that the Vermont Consumer Protection Act holds unscrupulous companies liable for representing their products in a manner that is likely to deceive a reasonable Vermont consumer. And at the heart of the lawsuit is the contention that Purdue Pharma failed to adequately disclose that their OxyContin drug was extremely addictive and likely to harm Vermonters who used it for chronic pain treatment. In short, the drug was deceptively marketed to Vermonters and Vermonters have been harmed by that deception.

Consistent with the Vermont Legislature’s mandate that the Vermont Consumer Protection Act be construed broadly to provide the most protection for Vermonter’s, the lawsuit aims to hold Purdue Pharma civilly liable for its alleged misrepresentation or omissions.

In our economic system, fair competition demands fair and honest marketing. The free market ceases to function properly if consumers are unable to trust the marketing tactics of large companies. This legal and economic assurance is particularly important when we’re talking about medicines that Vermonter’s rely on. Furthermore, without fair and honest marketing, Vermont businesses can’t compete in the marketplace. If competition is unfair, honest companies lose out to the snake oil salesman pushing their product in an unfair or unscrupulous manner.

When the Vermont Legislature adopted the Vermont Consumer Protection Act it could not have foreseen the possibility that multi-national pharmaceutical companies might put profits over people. Nevertheless, in defining the law broadly, as the legislature intended, the Vermont Supreme Court has given us an effective tool in the fight against unfair and deceptive practices that have led to the opiate crisis here in Vermont.

Consistent with this approach, the new lawsuit is appropriately citing laws at its disposal to protect Vermonters from the immeasurable harms caused by the opioid epidemic.