Calgary woman granted interim injunction over opioid use changes awarded court costs

A judge has awarded a Calgary woman more than $40,000 to help cover her court costs after she was granted an interim injunction last month that allows her to continue taking a potent opioid three times a day.

Ophelia Black, 22, was diagnosed with severe opioid use disorder after she became dependent on the drug as a teen.

She had asked for an exemption until the resolution of her lawsuit against the Alberta government over its new standards that require service providers to refrain from prescribing opioids for at-home use unless approved by a medical director.

Read more: Judge grants woman interim injunction for exemption from Alberta opioid restrictions

Black’s lawsuit says she currently follows a treatment regimen that allows her to effectively manage her condition with hydromorphone instead of using street-sourced opioids, such as fentanyl. She picks up the drugs at a pharmacy and injects them.

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The judge said the injunction will remain in effect until Black’s lawsuit over Alberta’s new standards is resolved in court. He directed that the woman’s service providers be allowed to provide her with the treatment she requires.

Black had sought $62,057.40 from the courts, arguing that she brought forward “a matter of significant public interest” and that the effect of the injunction goes well beyond her personal interest in the case.

She also said as a person with no financial resources, she should not be required to pay to vindicate her constitutional rights.

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Black had raised $10,522.93 through online fundraising.

Lawyers for the Alberta government countered that she should only receive 40 to 50 per cent of her legal costs.

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“I am satisfied that Ms. Black has shown that it was not possible for her to effectively pursue the litigation with private funding,” writes Court of King’s Bench Justice Colin Feasby in a ruling released Thursday.

“I am satisfied that Ms. Black, as an impecunious individual who was given no choice but to litigate to defend her constitutional rights so that she could continue her treatment regime, merits an award of costs greater than the 40 to 50 per cent indemnity.

“Alberta put her in a position where she had to invoke her constitutional rights to defend the status quo.”

Feasby awarded her 67 per cent of her legal costs, which amounts to $41,578.46.

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In her statement of claim, Black says she began using opioids to cope with childhood trauma and that she was regularly sexually, physically and mentally abused by older men preying on her vulnerable condition.

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As a result, she began suffering from suicidal ideation, depression and other mental health issues.

Black’s claims have not been tested in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

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