The U.S. Supreme Court has heard the Harrington v. Purdue Pharma case.
The case concerns the constitutionality of a $6 billion bankruptcy agreement between the pharmaceutical business and the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, which protects them from any civil litigation involving opioids, both present and future. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ultimately approved the bankruptcy arrangement despite rapid challenges.
The Biden government now requests a judicial review of the settlement because it is unlawful, mainly because victims who disagreed with the pact are also barred from suing the Sackler family.
Concerned that the bankruptcy arrangement “erodes public faith in the bankruptcy system” and provides a “roadmap for businesses and affluent people to manipulate the bankruptcy system to escape mass-tort responsibility,” U.S. Trustee William Harrington has voiced his disapproval.
The victims and their families were the primary subjects of the justices’ tough questioning during oral arguments, which centered on the consequences for them if the bargain was thrown out. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the gulf between you and the victims of opioid overdoses might be caused by your suggestion that, “Oh, if you simply reject this proposal, there will be more money available down the road from the Sacklers.”
Similar thoughts were expressed by Justice Elena Kagan, who said that the agreement is receiving overwhelming support, even from those who do not like the Sacklers. The victims’ lawyer, Pratik Shah, told the court that almost all victims would have “zero cash” if the bankruptcy arrangement hadn’t been struck. When questioned about the agreement, fewer than half of the victims answered, and 3% of those victims were not in favor of it.
Those who disagree with the ruling have said they want to sue the Sackler family for damages caused to them or their loved ones. With this contract in place, the Sackler family can keep their billions of dollars without individually filing for bankruptcy.