Members of the Sackler family, owners of Perdue Pharma, the Stamford-based maker of Oxycontin, will have to pay out billions of dollars to states to fight the ongoing opioid crisis. In exchange, the family will be immune from any future lawsuits regarding their role in that crisis.
The ruling from the New York Court of Appeals on Tuesday is a mixed result for families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction since Perdue Pharma began pushing sales of its flagship medication. While the Sacklers are being held responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic – the $6 billion settlement will come from their personal wealth – and they will be barred from participating in the opioid market in the future, states and families will now be unable to file future lawsuits regardless of any new information that should come to light.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong expressed his disappointment in the immunity deal while also praising the decision to increase settlement payouts to states.
“Purdue and the Sackler family destroyed thousands of lives in their relentless pursuit of profit. They cravenly sought to hide behind the country’s broken bankruptcy code to escape justice and shield their blood money,” he said in part in a statement, adding, “I believe Judge McMahon was right in the District Court. Non-consensual third-party releases are wrong, and I believe the law should not, and does not permit them. But the Second Circuit decided otherwise.”
Tong also called the settlement “imperfect,” noting that “there will never be enough justice to match the depths of pain and suffering the Sackler family caused. But we recognized that we had pushed this as far as we could, and that it was necessary to get communities, victims and their families the resolution and billions of dollars funding desperately needed to save lives and fight the opioid epidemic.”
In addition to the billions in settlement money which will be sent to eight states and the District of Columbia, the family has been ordered to publicly apologize to victims. They were also forced to participate in a public hearing this past March in which victims’ families were allowed to tell the Sacklers how their products and marketing hurt their loved ones.
Money from the settlement will be paid out over 18 years (Connecticut will receive a total of $95 million) and will be used to fund addiction programs in each state. While there is no immediate plan for future appeals, AG Tong’s statements make it clear that he expects at least the possibility that the case could be elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court.