Sackler Family Accused of Funneling Money Away from Purdue Pharma

19 Aug, 2019 Bruce Burk


Sarasota, FL ( - There is no shortage of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma related to the opioid epidemic. With so many plaintiffs injured by their alleged conduct, many of them are waiting for a big pay day at the end of litigation.

However, in Arizona, the State Supreme Court stated in a filing that they believe the Sackler family — the ones who owned Purdue Pharma — are transferring billions of dollars out of the company to keep it from having to pay claims related to the lawsuits against it. Arizona is currently involved in a federal lawsuit in the U S  Supreme Court to keep the opioid company full of money.

You may recall that Purdue Pharma is accused of aggressively marketing drugs like Oxycontin, which can have severe addictive properties. These drugs were pushed on doctors and consumers — allegedly — without the proper warnings of their addictive properties.

The filing comes as a result of the state seeking to intervene and prevent the company from transferring all the money out of the company so they and other plaintiffs can collect. This could come in an order stating that the transfers are void or possibly an injunction preventing them from transferring any more money out of the company.

“The Unites States Supreme Court is an improper forum to conduct a trial of the claims being made by Arizona,” Purdue said in a statement. “This petition was filed solely for the purpose of leapfrogging other similar lawsuits, and we expect the Court will see it as such.”

The United States Supreme Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. It has what’s called original jurisdiction in cases between states and cases involving ambassadors or public ministers. Otherwise, it has appellate decision over the decisions of Federal Appellate Courts that involve questions of interpreting federal law or the U.S. Constitution. To invoke its appellate jurisdiction, the party must file a writ of certiorari. The justices then decide by vote if they will hear the case. There is more likelihood that they will hear appellate cases if there are different decisions between different appellate districts.

This could bring up the legal concept of piercing the corporate veil. This is a legal doctrine that allows plaintiffs to cross the line between the company and its owners to collect money in lawsuits if certain criteria are met. This legal doctrine can be activated when a company’s owners do not give it the proper capital to operate. This would mean that Plaintiffs could sue not just the company but the Sackler family as individuals as well.

One legal remedy plaintiffs use in this situation is a pre-judgement garnishment or attachment. Virtually every state has some kind of remedy like this to protect plaintiffs who seek to take the money out of a defendant’s pockets.

This is a legal action taken right after a complaint is filed. Once a pre-judgment garnishment or attachment is obtained, the creditor can do things like send orders regarding bank accounts, seize motor vehicles, equipment or inventory, or place liens on real estate. These things are then held in trust during the pendency of the proceedings.

To obtain this remedy, the plaintiffs must show that they there is a likelihood that they will prevail in the case and that they will likely not have anything to collect from the defendant or defendants when the case is over. Although this remedy may not be available to the plaintiffs in the Purdue Pharma cases, some of the state case law regarding pre-judgment garnishment would likely aid their legal arguments.


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    About The Author

    • Bruce Burk

      Bruce Burk is an experienced workers' compensation defense attorney located in South Florida. He has also worked in civil litigation and criminal defense, handling more than 40 trials, both jury and non-jury. Burk received his law degree from the University of South Carolina and his bachelor's degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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