Legal experts said similar calculations could come into play in the 35 other state cases still pending against Purdue, as well as in the federal litigation, which combines 1600 suits brought by cities, counties, Native American tribes and others.
“There is blood in the water now, and with the threat of bankruptcy, the concern is that counties and states may settle on the cheap early to avoid getting little to nothing later on, “ said Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, a law professor at the University of Georgia.
At a news conference Tuesday in Tulsa, Mike Hunter, the Oklahoma state attorney general, said that as part of the settlement agreement, Purdue’s payment to the state had been secured against any possible bankruptcy filing.
“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger,” Mr. Hunter said. “Last year alone, out of the more than 3,000 Oklahomans admitted to the hospital for a nonfatal overdose, 80 percent involved a prescription opioid medication. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of Oklahomans who died from a drug overdose in 2018 were attributed to a pharmaceutical drug. Deploying the money from this settlement immediately allows us to decisively treat addiction illness and save lives.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the federal litigation, while quick to praise Oklahoma’s settlement, underscored that a resolution with Purdue hardly represented a broad settlement with the numerous companies involved in making, distributing and selling opioid painkillers.
“There are nearly two dozen other defendants with pending allegations against them in federal court, “ the executive committee of the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a statement. “We believe all of these defendants — opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies — must be held responsible for their role in the epidemic, and we will continue to pursue accountability for the thousands of communities we represent.”
According to details of the agreement announced Tuesday by Mr. Hunter, more than than $100 million will go to fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. The Sacklers, who were not named in the lawsuit, will contribute an additional $75 million over five years to the center.