Supreme Court puts Purdue Pharma bankruptcy deal on hold

In a momentous decision, the Supreme Court has thrust the bankruptcy reorganization of Purdue Pharma into a state of suspension. The Biden administration’s emergency request to halt the process has been granted, raising questions about a provision shielding the Sackler family from accountability in lawsuits. The court’s intervention arrives as a significant roadblock to an appeals court’s decision, which had greenlit the bankruptcy’s progression. This intricate narrative is woven with the complexities of a deal involving the Sackler family committing $6 billion to Purdue Pharma, contingent upon being absolved of future liabilities. ( The echoes of this case will be heard as the Supreme Court prepares to delve into oral arguments in December, with a ruling poised to emerge in the early days of the coming year. (

At the core of this legal tangle lies the pivotal question of the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction to release the Sackler family from the mounting claims lodged by opioid victims. Purdue Pharma’s colossal gains from the distribution of OxyContin, a painkiller that played a central role in the opioid epidemic, have drawn the ire of those who demand accountability. ( The company’s aggressive marketing strategies have been under the spotlight, cast against a backdrop of escalating opioid-related deaths.

As the Biden administration rallied for the Supreme Court’s intervention, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar drew attention to the Sackler family’s financial maneuvers. She underscored that the family members had extracted a staggering $11 billion from the company while seeking protection from liability. In the midst of this financial saga, Purdue Pharma sought refuge under the umbrella of bankruptcy, but the Sackler family took a different route. Negotiating a separate pact, they joined forces with Purdue and certain plaintiffs to redefine the company’s trajectory in the midst of the opioid crisis. (

In a pivotal moment in May, the 2nd U.S. ( Circuit Court of Appeals in New York gave its stamp of approval to the plan, a decision that wasn’t without its share of objections. William Harrington, representing the U.S. government trustee responsible for monitoring the bankruptcy, voiced concerns that resonated against the backdrop of a system designed to uphold legal obligations. The complexity of this narrative is heightened by the participation of eight states and the District of Columbia, who initially resisted the plan but eventually aligned with a renegotiated agreement.

The intricacies of this narrative reverberate through the voices of those seeking compensation. ( Representing a collective of 60,000 individuals seeking reparation, their perspective is poignant. Their words underscore the importance of third-party releases, seen as crucial to a comprehensive settlement that addresses the needs of opioid-affected communities. The discourse pivots on the value this settlement brings, both in direct payments to the injured and in the allocation of substantial funds to mitigate future harm.

As this legal saga continues to unfold, the narrative extends its reach to include your perspective. ( How do you perceive the Supreme Court’s intervention? What emotions and reflections do these legal complexities evoke in you? ( The journey of responsibility, liability, and accountability unfolds in real-time, and your insights contribute to the ongoing dialogue that defines our legal and ethical boundaries.

Yael Wolfe

Writer, photographer, artist, and big, bad wolf. I’m a writer, photographer, and artist. I use my work to explore what it means to be a woman in this world.

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