Sackler Family Wants To Settle Opioid Lawsuits

By Kelly Burch 04/26/19

While the Sacklers are interested in settling, a rep for the family insists that they are not at fault for the opioid epidemic.

Image: 
gavel and dollar sign illustration of a lawsuit being settled

Members of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, want to settle the onslaught of opioid lawsuits against them, according to recent statements from a family lawyer. 

Speaking with Reuters, Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton, who represents four members of the family, said their clients are interested in settling the lawsuits, but also insisted that the company and the family are not at fault for the opioid epidemic. 

“The objective is and remains to try to achieve a global resolution,” White said. “Purdue and the Sackler family members, given this litigation landscape, would like to resolve with the plaintiffs in a constructive way to get the monies to the communities that need them, to the people that are addicted... rather than to pay attorneys’ fees for years and years and years to come. You’re talking 2,000 cases. How long will they take to go through the court system?”

White said that given the scope of the lawsuits against the Sackler family and Purdue, settling is going to be a long and complex process. 

She said, “You have municipalities and counties as well as state AGs involved in these matters, and getting all of those plaintiffs in a global resolution is very difficult.”

Despite the family’s willingness to settle, White said that they are not interested in accepting fault. White said that the lawsuits twist and misconstrue normal business documents to shine a negative light on the company. She added that the lawsuits are politically motivated. 

“Let’s be clear: There is a major public health crisis that we’re all dealing with. But in terms of litigation, what you always want are all of the motivators to be merits-based so that politics are not playing a role, incentives are not playing a role that alters the outcome,” she said. “Let’s see what the real problem is and what the real solutions are rather than playing a litigation blame game with the fingers pointed in the wrong direction.”

However, Paul Hanly, who is representing municipalities suing Purdue, said that the cases against the company are solid. 

“Our cases assert strong legal, not political, claims against the Sacklers and all of the other defendants,” he told Reuters. “Ms. White’s comments are belied by the facts that Judge Polster [overseeing the federal cases in Ohio courts] has denied motions to dismiss brought by any number of defendants also claiming that the allegations are without a proper legal basis… and such motions have met the same fate in the New York state coordinated cases.” 

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading a lawsuit against the company, was not impressed with White’s statements. 

“For years, members of the Sackler family tried to shift the blame and hide their role in creating and profiting off the opioid epidemic,” she said. “Our lawsuit exposed their illegal deception, and we will aggressively pursue our case against them.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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