Vermont Attorney General Files Third Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers

May 21, 2019

The Vermont Attorney General is going back to court over the opioid crisis. T.J. Donovan has filed a third lawsuit against manufacturers or distributors of the drugs that the office claims had key roles in creating the opioid epidemic in the state.

In September 2018 the state sued Purdue Pharma and in March 2019 the state attorney general filed a lawsuit against two opioid distributors, Cardinal and McKesson. Vermont Attorney General  T. J. Donovan  was at the Howard Center, one of Vermont’s largest drug treatment and outreach centers, Tuesday to announce that a third lawsuit has been filed in Chittenden Superior Court.  “The state of Vermont is suing the Sackler family. We sued for unfair and deceptive conduct, nuisance and unjust enrichment. The Sackler family managed the company’s core business activities: marketing, sales and product development of opiates. They directed and authorized the company’s deceptive strategy to minimize the health risk associated with opiates and deceptively claimed that prescription opiates were rarely the cause of death, of addiction, abuse or misuse. We filed a case against eight individual members of the Sackler family who personally participated in and directed the misconduct of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of highly addictive Oxycontin. As I said we sued for unfair and deceptive conduct, nuisance and unjust enrichment.”

Donovan says the eight individuals, owners of Purdue Pharma, violated Vermont’s Consumer Protection Act and says they were active participants in deception.  “I want to be clear about the Sacklers. They made billions of dollars off the backs of patients who became addicted to Oxycontin. The entire Sackler family has been unjustly enriched by their misdeeds but our lawsuit only names the Sackler family board members who served on the Board of Directors between 1993 and 2017. The evidence shows that they were deeply involved in running the company. As one of Purdue’s prior CEOs said the Board of Directors in which these eight Sackler family members were on functioned as the de facto CEO. That’s why we sued the Sacklers today.”

Deputy Attorney General Jill Abrams says the three suits are intertwined.  “One is a corporate entity and the other is individuals so it gives us multiple places to go for money. So with respect to both we’re suing for unfair and deceptive acts and practices and for nuisance. With respect to the Sacklers for injust enrichment. So it’s a way essentially to reach into the pocket of the individual wrongdoer. So if one of those individuals say made a billion dollars in a given year we would have access to that billion dollars individually separate and apart from what the company as a separate corporate legal entity would contribute to a lawsuit.”

The state’s attorneys said discussions are ongoing with Purdue Pharma regarding a possible settlement. The company settled a $270 million lawsuit with Oklahoma in March.