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Second Circuit Sends OxyContin Case Back to Kentucky

By Robyn Hagan Cain on January 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Kentucky has an OxyContin problem.

For years, the drug has been so pervasive in the eastern part of the state that it's become known as "Heroin of the Hills," The Associated Press reports. State officials sued Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, alleging the company misrepresented the drug as "less addictive and less likely to cause withdrawal than other pain medications."

The most recent legal wrangling in the ongoing battle between Kentucky and Purdue didn't address the merits of the case, but rather which court should hear the case.

Kentucky sued Purdue in 2007 to recover amounts it spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions as a result of over-prescription and widespread addiction to OxyContin. Though the state asserted only state-law claims against Purdue, the manufacturer removed the case to federal court, asserting that the claims (1) raised federal questions and (2) constituted a disguised "class action" removable under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).

Following transfer to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kentucky moved to remand, arguing that the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because all of the claims arose exclusively under state law, and the case otherwise failed to meet CAFA's requirements. The District Court agreed and granted the motion to remand in a published decision. Purdue appealed.

If that appeal seems unusual, it's because an order remanding a case is generally not reviewable. There is, however, a limited exception: Under 28 U.S.C. § 1453(c)(1), a court of appeals may accept an appeal from an order of a district court granting or denying a motion to remand a class action to the state court from which it was removed if application is made to the court of appeals within a specified time period.

Here, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to consider Purdue's appeal, but ultimately denied the manufacturer's request to keep the case in federal court. For now, the matter is back to Pike County, Kentucky.

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