Thanks to our “take no shit” A G, Kathy Jennings, Delaware families will get more financial justice from the Sackler family!
Excerpts from the Article:
While hundreds of Delaware residents died from opioid overdoses, the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma – the company responsible for creating and manufacturing the popular painkiller OxyContin – profited by the billions.
It’s a storyline that many have been reminded of with the recent release of Hulu’s “Dopesick,” which brought renewed attention to both the people who suffered from addiction, as well as the family behind creating and selling this addictive drug. Delaware’s story is not much different than the ones depicted in the series.
But a recent court decision may prevent the Sackler family, founders and owners of Purdue Pharma, from avoiding the financial effects of lawsuits brought against the drug company and them personally.
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That could mean more money for Delaware, where officials have long said the agreement to leave the Sackler family protected from liability doesn’t provide enough financial support for the harm they caused.
“The Sacklers have to suffer,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “It’s just wrong. We grow up knowing right from wrong … and this is just wrong. They can’t buy absolution with money they took out of the company and profits made off the deaths of other people.”
A judge determined late Thursday in a 142-page ruling that the family couldn’t be given immunity in the bankruptcy filing by Purdue Pharma and were therefore not protected against ongoing lawsuits against them. The company said it plans to appeal.
It’s through the work of eight states in particular – Delaware, included – that the initial ruling was even appealed in the first place. The driver has been that the agreement does not begin to require enough money for what states, municipalities, and families have lost in the decades that OxyContin has been on the market.
Jennings compared the Sackler family’s actions to “robbing the cash register” and then trying to use only a portion of the money they took to pay for their role in this epidemic.
Jennings said the Sackler family – valued at about $14 billion in 2015 – removed so much money from Purdue Pharma that the company was forced to declare bankruptcy.
“$10.4 billion of that came from them looting the company,” Jennings said, “and now they’re trying to buy absolution in bankruptcy court.”
The ultimate goal is more money for all states suing Purdue Pharma and the family behind it, especially Delaware, which Jennings said is “one of the highest harmed states in the country.”
The pandemic hasn’t helped Delaware’s struggle. Last year, Delaware lost 447 people to fatal overdoses, a continued increase over 2019 and previous years. According to the state’s public tracker, 326 have died this year – though toxicology reports and findings often mean this number is weeks behind.
Though money can’t bring back the hundreds of lives lost to addiction, some parents look at these lawsuits as an opportunity for some justice for the deaths of their children.
For years, MaryBeth Cichocki has been an outspoken advocate for justice and change after the death of her son, Matt, to an opioid overdose. She said she burst into tears after learning of the judge’s decision. “I just thought, Thank you, God, that our loved ones did not die in vain,” she said. “They [the Sacklers] have to be held accountable. … We need to hold people accountable.”
It’s not about the money either, Cichocki said, despite knowing many families who mortgaged their homes in order to pay for their child’s treatment – only to ultimately lose them.
“I can’t put a price on Matt and all the future things we could have shared,” she said. “There is no price on that.”
Many states are using lawsuits as a way to recoup the millions spent on addressing the opioid epidemic – and put those dollars into treating it and preventing it from happening again. Earlier this year, Delaware reached a settlement that is slated to bring more than $100 million to the state from a sweeping $26 billion settlement with four opioid manufacturers and distributors. A commission created this year to distribute those funds will determine how that money will be spent, with a focus on maximizing harm reduction, according to the law.
The state also has hopes that these won’t be the last settlement funds to come to Delaware.
“It’s a long battle,” Jennings said. “We have to be in for the long haul.”
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