Supreme Court Halts Release of Sackler Family from Opioid Liability in Temporary Order

In a temporary order, the Supreme Court has blocked a nationwide settlement that aimed to protect the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, from civil lawsuits related to the opioid crisis. The Biden administration’s request for the injunction was granted by the court, which plans to hear arguments later this year to determine the fate of the settlement. Under the proposed agreement, Purdue Pharma would emerge from bankruptcy as a reorganized entity, with its profits dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic. However, the Sackler family, despite contributing up to $6 billion, would be exempt from individual bankruptcy protection and legal liabilities. The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, backed by the Justice Department, opposes this release of the Sackler family from legal responsibility. The Supreme Court has called for the parties involved to address whether bankruptcy law allows for such a broad shield against lawsuits by all opioid victims. The reorganization plan had received approval from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and while Purdue Pharma and others argued against Supreme Court intervention, the court’s decision highlights the urgency of the matter. While victims of the opioid crisis awaiting compensation may be disappointed by the delay, they recognize the swift response from the Supreme Court. Some groups, including parents of individuals who died from opioid overdoses, have expressed concerns about accepting the proposed settlement. The opioid crisis in the U.S., which has resulted in over 70,000 annual fatalities, is primarily attributed to synthetic drugs like fentanyl. However, the crisis began to worsen with the proliferation of potent prescription painkillers like OxyContin in the early 2000s.

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