A federal judge’s decision to overturn a $4.5 billion settlement between Purdue Pharma and assorted state, local, and tribal governments is the right call. The settlement wrongly shielded the billionaire Sackler family, who owned the company that made the prescription painkiller OxyContin, from any and all civil liability in opioid-related tragedies.
As reported by The New York Times, the settlement was part of a complex restructuring plan for Purdue Pharma that was approved in September by a bankruptcy judge. But Judge Colleen McMahon of the US District of New York pulled the plug on it, because it protected the Sackler family from future civil lawsuits. After the Sacklers took more than $10 billion out of it, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy. The Sacklers, who did not file for personal bankruptcy, offered to contribute toward the original settlement, “if – and only if – every member of the family could ‘achieve global peace’ from all civil [not criminal] litigation,” the judge wrote. And that, she said, was wrong. She did, however, also call the legal issue of the Sacklers’ release “a great unsettled question” of bankruptcy law and wrote, “This opinion will not be the last word on the subject, nor should it.”