Things have been moving quickly since Monday, when a judge in Oklahoma ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for its role in the opioid epidemic.
The landmark ruling suggested that other judges might hold drug companies liable for the opioid crisis. Since then, settlement talks seem to have accelerated. Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, has reportedly been in talks toward settling all its lawsuits. State attorneys general and local officials were reportedly in Ohio on Wednesday discussing possible settlement terms. (It’s unclear if Rhode Island AG Peter Neronha was in attendance. A spokesperson for his office declined to comment.)
It’s likely the Oklahoma ruling created pressure for settlement talks, says Roger Williams law professor David Logan.
“There is no doubt that this (ruling) is the first breach in the wall,” Logan says. “Now there’s blood in the water. So there’s a lot of incentive to not roll the dice and instead to settle on some terms.”
What those terms will be remains unclear: What will the exact dollar amount be? Will the settlement involve some admission of wrong-doing? Will it include some “secrecy provision” that protects the Sackler family?
On that last count, Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey strongly objected in a statement Wednesday.
“We owe it to families in Massachusetts and across the country to hold Purdue and the Sacklers accountable, ensure that the evidence of what they did is made public, and make them pay for the damage they have caused.”
Massachusetts was the first state to bring suit against individual members of the Sackler family.