Biden’s DOJ opposes Sackler family release from opioid liability, Supreme Court agrees (temporarily)

Biden's DOJ opposes Sackler family release from opioid liability, Supreme Court agrees (temporarily)

Supreme Court to Reconsider Opioid Settlement: A Battle for Justice and Compensation


In a move that may have far-reaching implications for the fight against the opioid epidemic, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to reevaluate a controversial settlement between Purdue Pharma and state and local governments. The agreement, reached last year, was designed to allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy and contribute its profits towards combating the opioid crisis. However, one key aspect of the deal has drawn significant attention and controversy – the shield it offers to members of the Sackler family from individual lawsuits. Now, the Supreme Court will examine whether bankruptcy law can authorize such a blanket shield.

Opioids, most notably fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, have been responsible for over 70,000 fatal overdoses annually in recent years. The crisis expanded in the early 2000s with the widespread use of powerful prescription painkillers like OxyContin. As the death toll rose, lawsuits were filed against Purdue and the Sackler family, accusing them of contributing to the epidemic through their aggressive marketing and deceptive practices.

The settlement proposed in the bankruptcy case would allow Purdue to restructure as a new entity, with its profits directed towards addressing the opioid crisis. The Sackler family, which owns Purdue, would contribute up to $6 billion towards the settlement. The deal, hailed as a step towards justice and compensation for victims, won approval from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, clearing the way for the reorganization plan.

However, the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, represented by the Justice Department, has opposed protecting the Sackler family from legal liability. Critics argue that holding them accountable is crucial for ensuring justice and providing appropriate compensation for victims. The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the settlement’s shield clauses indicates their recognition of the urgency and complexity of the matter.

Lawyers for Purdue and other parties involved in the agreement argue that the plan is legally sound and enjoys widespread support. They contend that the settlement is vital for addressing the opioid crisis promptly, offering compensation to victims, and implementing measures to mitigate its devastating impact on communities across the country.

The Supreme Court’s intervention has both disappointed and heartened various stakeholders. On one hand, it delays the resolution and compensation for victims of the opioid crisis. On the other hand, it presents an opportunity to reassess the fairness and legality of shielding the Sackler family from individual lawsuits. Ed Neiger, a lawyer representing individual victims, expressed disappointment over the delayed compensation but praised the Court’s swift attention to the case, highlighting their recognition of its urgency.

Among those skeptical of the settlement are a group largely comprised of parents who lost their children to opioid overdoses. They contend that accepting the deal would let the Sacklers off the hook too easily and believe that stronger measures should be taken to hold them accountable.

The Supreme Court’s decision carries significant weight as it could shape the future of similar settlements and their impact on victims. This latest development underscores the importance of reviewing the legal aspects related to bankruptcy, responsibility, and justice in cases involving widespread harm caused by powerful corporations.

As the battle for justice and compensation continues, it remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will navigate this complex legal landscape. The outcome of this case could have profound implications for the fight against the opioid epidemic, setting important precedents for holding corporations accountable and ensuring restitution for victims.