Lawyers and judges, for instance, were key in settling claims related to asbestos, lead paint, Agent Orange and tobacco. More recently, they have dealt with the fallout of the U.S. opioid epidemic, which is linked to the deaths of some 500,000 Americans over the past two decades.
Frustration and disappointment have been evident in the settlement reached on Sept. 1, that ended thousands of the lawsuits filed by states, cities, counties and native tribes against Purdue Pharma. Even as Robert Drain, a federal bankruptcy judge in White Plains, New York, approved the deal he observed that it would fail to fully hold Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
If the deal holds up, it will cap 20 years of litigation against Purdue Pharma, a privately held drugmaker. The company pleaded guilty twice to federal criminal charges in connection with its marketing of OxyContin. No lawsuit against Purdue ever advanced to trial. Cases were settled out of court and records were sealed. The company continued to promote OxyContin to doctors through 2018.
Barring a successful appeal, however, the Sacklers will still retain most of the fortune they amassed from the sales of OxyContin fully insulated against future lawsuits brought in connection with Purdue’s opioids.
30 million documents — business plans, memos, emails, meeting minutes, legal records and even deposition videos — will be turned over to archivists and made available in text-searchable form through a user-friendly portal. Purdue’s inner workings will be exposed like those of few U.S. corporations before. This will help researchers, journalists and the public better understand the causes of the opioid epidemic.Sackler Family Wins Immunity in Opioid Lawsuit — Court Should Unseal Company Documents to Prevent Future Crises • Children’s Health Defense