Josh Shapiro files separate lawsuit against owners of Purdue Pharma
Pennsylvania’s attorney general calls Sackler family ‘personally liable for the devastation’
A day after Purdue Pharma reached a tentative settlement in a federal lawsuit over its sales of opioid painkillers, Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed a separate lawsuit against the Sackler family — the company’s owners — alleging that members of the family “are personally liable for the devastation of the opioid crisis.”
Josh Shapiro and others had been negotiating a possible settlement with Purdue Pharma in the federal case until talks broke down last week. The case had consolidated thousands of lawsuits brought by municipalities from all over the country who alleged that Purdue Pharma’s marketing of the opioid painkiller OxyContin fueled an opioid overdose epidemic that has killed thousands.
Twenty-two state attorneys general and more than 2,000 cities and counties had accepted the settlement — reportedly worth $10 to $12 billion — under which Purdue would declare bankruptcy and instead become a trust “whose main purpose would be to combat the opioid epidemic,” the Associated Press reported.
The Sacklers would give up control of the company and contribute $3 billion of their personal funds in the deal, the AP reported.
But Shapiro and several other attorneys general have said they’re not satisfied with the settlement because the Sacklers haven’t committed more of their personal fortunes. Pennsylvania is among the states hardest hit by opioid-related deaths.
In August, Allentown joined
municipalities across the country as well as Lehigh County in filing suit. In 2017, Lehigh County recorded a record 200 drug-related deaths. Last year it fell to about 160, about the same number that died in 2016. At least 72 of the 2017 overdose deaths occurred in Allentown, excluding hospital deaths, according to city officials.
“Through our negotiations with Purdue Pharma, it became crystal clear the Sacklers have no intention of taking any ownership for engineering an epidemic that claims the lives of 12 Pennsylvanians each day,” Shapiro said in a news release Thursday morning. He wrote that his lawsuit would “require this family of billionaires” to “take responsibility for the pain they caused.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbbir S. Grewal said, too, that he would continue to pursue the Sacklers in court.
“Purdue Pharma has been morally bankrupt for years. If the company enters financial bankruptcy as well, New Jersey will continue to pursue all available legal options against those responsible,” he wrote in an email Wednesday. “If Purdue cannot pay for the harm it inflicted, the Sacklers will.”
Shapiro’s office also has a lawsuit pending against Purdue Pharma over its marketing practices in the state. Shapiro says the two lawsuits will proceed independently.