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Victims’ Families Sue Bristol-Myers in Tainted Excedrin Deaths

August 1, 1986

SEATTLE (AP) _ The families of two Auburn residents who died after swallowing cyanide- laced Extra-Strength Excedrin have filed suits against the maker of the painkiller.

″We’re alleging that the capsules were unreasonably dangerous as marketed,″ said Christopher Otorowski, one of the attorneys representing Paul Webking, whose wife, Sue Snow, died June 11. Webking’s suit was filed Thursday.

A separate strict liability suit was filed Wednesday against Bristol-Myers by an attorney for the family of Bruce Nickell, who died June 5. Both suits seek unspecified damages.

Nickell’s widow, Stella, declined to comment on the lawsuit. There was no answer at Webking’s home Thursday.

Jerry Parrott, spokesman for New York-based Bristol-Myers, said Thursday that the company would not comment on the lawsuits until lawyers had reviewed court documents.

Webking’s suit claims Bristol-Myers was negligent in continuing to sell ″unreasonably dangerous″ painkillers following four years of drug tampering deaths related to non-prescription medications.

Attorney William Donais said he wanted to file suit on behalf of Mrs. Nickell before Washington’s new law limiting liability awards in personal injury cases took effect today.

″Basically, the rule of law is that if you’re going to put something to be ingested in the stream of commerce, there’s going to be a very high liability,″ Donais said. ″I don’t like filing a suit at this point. But, unfortunately, those clowns in Olympia have forced us to do this.″

Bristol-Myers withdrew all non-prescription capsules from the market on June 20, and the state Pharmacy Board banned the sale of the over-the-counter capsules for 90 days.

No one has claimed responsibility for the poisonings. In all, five tainted bottles were found in southern King County, four of Extra-Strength Excedrin and one of Anacin-3.

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