U.S. Supreme Court rejects Arizona opioid case against Purdue, Sackler
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[December 10, 2019]
By Nate Raymond
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court on Monday turned away a novel case by Arizona seeking to recover
billions of dollars that the state has said that members of the Sackler
family - owners of Purdue Pharma LP - funneled out of the OxyContin
maker before the company filed for bankruptcy in September.
The justices declined to take the rare step of allowing Arizona Attorney
General Mark Brnovich to pursue a case directly with the Supreme Court
on the role the drugmaker played in the U.S. opioid epidemic that has
killed tens of thousands of Americans annually in recent years.
The lawsuit accused eight Sackler family members of funneling $4 billion
out of Purdue from 2008 to 2016 despite being aware that the company
faced massive potential liabilities over its marketing of opioid
Brnovich argued that the national importance of holding those
responsible for the opioid crisis accountable justified taking the case
directly to the justices. Brnovich is a Republican.
The case is among the thousands filed by states, counties and cities
seeking to hold Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, and in many cases
the Sacklers, responsible for a U.S. opioid addiction crisis that since
1999 has resulted in more than 400,000 overdose deaths. The lawsuits
accuse the company of deceptively marketing opioids by overstating their
benefits and playing down the risks.
Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September after
reaching a tentative deal it values at $10 billion to resolve those
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The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018.
REUTERS/Erin Schaff/File Photo
Only half the states support the proposed deal, with many wanting
the Sacklers to contribute more than the initial $3 billion the
families pledged to pay.
A federal bankruptcy judge has placed a hold on all of the lower
court and state court cases against Purdue. But Arizona declined to
withdraw its Supreme Court case.
States opposed to Purdue's $10 billion settlement proposal in a
later bankruptcy filing in October asserted that the amount of money
the Sacklers received was $13 billion, more than triple the amount
Lawyers for Purdue argued the bankruptcy court is a better forum
than the Supreme Court to resolve Arizona's claims. In a brief, the
states of Ohio, Alaska, North Dakota, Louisiana and Utah supported
Brnovich's case relied upon language in the U.S. Constitution giving
the Supreme Court "original jurisdiction" over disputes in which a
state is a party, meaning states can file a lawsuit at the high
court instead of litigating first in lower courts.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham and
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