Purdue’s trial is given a specific amount of time.
In a virtual meeting, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York set aside eleven days for Purdue Pharma’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy trial, which began August 12. The deal has been in the works for the past two years and, just recently (with some revisions), Purdue announced the settlement has the support of 95% of its creditors. Its home state of Connecticut is one of the parties holding out, opposing the deal. New York only accepted after members of the Sackler family tied to the drug maker agreed to relinquish future naming rights to institutions. The family had once been known as prominent philanthropists with their name tied to public amenities including historical buildings and museums.
Drain added in his most recent decision that he will “cut people off if they are wasting time,” adding, “You are, all of you, to fit within that time, period. Because I believe any capable lawyer can do so.”
Purdue’s reorganization plan it set to commence once a settlement with its owners goes through. As part of the deal, members of the Sackler family will be shielded from future civil litigation after contributing more than $4 billion in installments over nine years. Purdue values the deal at more than $10 billion.
The company’s attorneys at Davis Polk & Wardwell estimated that unless the court agreed to limit trial time, “at least 205 hours, or more than 29 days, could be spent just presenting evidence.”
Judge Drain previously made the decision to enter letters received from families and personal accounts submitted to him into public record. Including them in the record gave the victims a much-needed voice. Thousands of letters have been submitted, showing the extent of the human toll the opioid epidemic has taken. More than 500,000 Americans have died from fatal drug overdoses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Critics oppose the “third-party releases” part of the bankruptcy package, granting the family immunity without having to admit to any liability. They would like to see the family behind OxyContin held accountable more directly for the impact the addiction crisis has had on communities across the U.S.
Members of the Sackler family have admitted to no wrongdoing and will not have to. “There is nothing I can find that I would have done differently,” said Dr. Kathe Sackler who served on Purdue’s board for almost twenty years. David Sackler, who also served on the board for six years, previously testified, “The family and the board acted legally and ethically.”
Purdue Pharma has faced criminal litigation in the past, admitting to deceiving physicians and others about risks of Oxycontin addiction and settling these cases. The company pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2007 and 2020. Members of the Sackler family, however, have never been criminally charged.