(CN) - Twenty Arkansas counties were unable to convince the 8th Circuit that Pfizer Inc. and other makers of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products were liable for the cost of dealing with the state's methamphetamine epidemic.
The federal appeals court in St. Louis affirmed dismissal of the case, saying a company cannot be held liable for the legal sale of a product that's later abused.
The counties claimed that the state has one of the highest concentrations of small meth labs in the nation, and they are spending time, energy and money locking up the users, dealers and cooks. The drug cannot be manufactured without ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
The counties do not allege that the drug companies violated the law, but rather that they knew their products were being used in the production of illegal drugs.
Judge Hansen said the case is analogous to cases involving guns, which are sometimes legally sold before falling into the hands of criminals.
"Proximate cause is bottomed on public policy as a limitation on how far society is willing to extend liability for a defendant's action," Hansen wrote. "As a federal court construing state law, we are very reluctant to open Pandora's box to the avalanche of actions that would follow if we found this case to state a cause of action under Arkansas law."
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.