OxyContin maker reaches opioid settlement; impact on local lawsuit being weighed

Associated Press • Sep 11, 2019 at 8:00 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Nearly half the states and some 2,000 local governments have agreed to a tentative settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma over the toll of the nation's opioid crisis.

But according to Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, any impacts on his lawsuit against the company — and two additional drug manufacturers — have yet to be determined. He called the new Purdue settlement "partial and tentative," adding that his own legal team is still reviewing the details.

Staubus is represented by Nashville-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings. Staubus hopes that any financial judgment obtained through litigation can locally fund new programs, treatment and staffing in the fight against opioid addiction.

"My goal is to make sure that the citizens of Sullivan County are protected and get what's entitled to them, no matter what happens," Staubus told the Times News. "If there is a settlement, it's important for Sullivan County to get what it's due, rather than money going to Nashville for projects not related to us."

According to the Associated Press, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the agreement reached Wednesday included more money from the family that owns Purdue than had been offered previously.

He told The Associated Press the tentative settlement deal was the quickest way to get relief for communities devastated by the opioid epidemic.

Sources with direct knowledge of the talks say that Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue will pay up to $12 billion over time and that the Sackler family will give up control of the company. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Paul Farrell is an attorney for several local governments. He said in a text message that they have agreed to a deal that has been on the table for several weeks.

Even with Wednesday's development, roughly half the states had not signed on. Several state attorneys general vowed to continue their legal battles against the company and the Sacklers.

In June 2017, Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus announced his lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, along with Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals. It was filed on behalf of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Judicial Districts, representing Sullivan, Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.

Also named in the suit was "Baby Doe." The child's Sullivan County mother was reportedly addicted to opioids, thus he was born with neo-natal abstinence syndrome.

For the past two years, dozens of motions filed by both the plaintiffs and defendants have slowed the lawsuit from moving forward. Last month, Staubus said he hoped the case would go to trial early next year.

Times News staff writer Rain Smith contributed to this story.