Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 28, 2024

Supreme Court Blocks Purdue Pharma Settlement with Families of Opioid Victims

The Supreme Court has halted a monumental settlement that would have provided billions to families affected by the opioid crisis.

According to Daily Mail, the Court sided with the Justice Department, finding legal protections for the Sackler family unauthorized by current law.

In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked the nationwide settlement involving Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. This decision overturns an earlier ruling that had upheld the settlement plan, which would have allocated up to $6 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits. The settlement was designed to shield the Sackler family from future civil claims related to their role in the opioid crisis.

Supreme Court Overturns Lower Court Ruling

The settlement included provisions for the families of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler to retain billions and relinquish ownership of Purdue Pharma. The plan proposed restructuring Purdue Pharma into an entity focused on the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction. However, the Justice Department accused the Sacklers of withdrawing $11 billion from the company before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 to address its liabilities from numerous lawsuits.

The opioid epidemic has caused over 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States over the past two decades. The proposed settlement, approved in 2021, was estimated to provide $10 billion to creditors. However, the Biden administration objected to the settlement, resulting in the court putting it on hold last summer.

The Sackler families expressed optimism about reaching a resolution that avoids extensive legal battles. They stated, "The Sackler families remain hopeful about reaching a resolution that provides substantial resources to help combat a complex public health crisis. The unfortunate reality is that the alternative is costly and chaotic legal proceedings in courtrooms across the country."

Justice Department's Position on Sackler Contributions

Deputy Solicitor General Curtis Gannon argued against the deal, stating that it allowed the Sacklers to control their contributions and granted them the functional equivalent of a discharge. Purdue Pharma pled guilty to three criminal charges in 2021 related to its marketing practices. As part of the settlement, a $750 million pool was designated for direct payments to victims, with compensation ranging from $3,500 to $48,000.

Justice Neil Gorsuch emphasized the legal limitations in his statement, saying, "Nothing in present law authorizes the Sackler discharge." Meanwhile, Justice Brett Kavanaugh warned of the potential negative impact of the decision on victims, stating, "Opioid victims and other future victims of mass torts will suffer greatly in the wake of today's unfortunate and destabilizing decision."

Edward Neiger, representing some of the victims' families, expressed his disappointment, saying:

Today's Supreme Court ruling marks a major setback for the families who lost loved ones to overdose and for those still struggling with addiction. The Purdue plan was a victim-centered plan that would provide billions of dollars to the states to be used exclusively to abate the opioid crisis and $750 million for victims of the crisis, so that they could begin to rebuild their lives.

Potential for Extended Legal Battles

The Sackler family members have not been involved in Purdue Pharma since before its bankruptcy filing. They previously received over $10 billion from the company, half of which they claimed went to taxes. The Supreme Court's decision raises the possibility of extended legal battles and uncertainties for the victims seeking compensation.

Ed Bisch, an advocate for victims' families, hailed the decision as a step toward justice, stating, "This is a step toward justice. It was outrageous what they were trying to get away with." He criticized the Sacklers' actions, saying, "They have made a mockery of the justice system, and then they tried to make a mockery of the bankruptcy system."

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the Sacklers remain confident in their legal position. They stated, "While we are confident that we would prevail in any future litigation given the profound misrepresentations about our families and the opioid crisis, we continue to believe that a swift negotiated agreement to provide billions of dollars for people and communities in need is the best way forward."


The Supreme Court's narrow 5-4 decision to block the nationwide settlement between Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family is a significant setback for the victims of the opioid crisis. The ruling sides with the Justice Department, finding that the legal protections granted to the Sackler family in the settlement are unauthorized by current law. While the Sackler family remains confident in their legal position and hopeful for a swift negotiated agreement, the decision has been met with disappointment from victims' advocates, who see it as a step away from justice and a mockery of the bankruptcy system.

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About Ashton Snyder

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