U.S. Supreme Court

In 'unorthodox' strategy, Arizona files suit against opioid company owners directly with Supreme Court

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The state of Arizona has filed a suit directly with the U.S. Supreme Court that claims owners of Purdue Pharma should return more than $4 billion withdrawn from the company.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, says members of the Sackler family should return the money because they were aware that Purdue Pharma could face huge liabilities in connection with its marketing of the opioid OxyContin, report the New York Times and the Arizona Capitol Times.

Pending lawsuits accuse Purdue Pharma of contributing to the opioid crisis. A pending suit in Arizona contends that Purdue Pharma violated the terms of a 2007 consent judgment barring deceptive marketing of its painkillers.

Although it is permissible for corporate owners to withdraw profits, the suit contends that the money should not have been transferred because it could frustrate plaintiffs who attempt to satisfy any judgments obtained against the company.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich acknowledged in an interview with the New York Times that filing the suit directly with the high court is “a long shot” and “a little unorthodox.”

The Constitution establishes that the U.S. Supreme Court has “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes in which a state is a party. But in practice, the Supreme Court rarely hears suits that haven’t originated in lower courts. When the court does hear original jurisdiction cases, it is usually to decide disputes between states.

“We don’t have time for this to take years to wind through the courts,” Brnovich told the New York Times. “The Supreme Court has jurisdiction, and we think they have to act.”

Brnovich’s suit points to a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas that said the Supreme Court does not have the discretion to decline to decide cases within its original jurisdiction.

Brnovich says the Supreme Court should overrule its decisions giving itself discretion to reject original jurisdiction cases. In the alternative, his suit says, the Supreme Court should allow the original jurisdiction suit in this case.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Purdue Pharma reaches $270M settlement with Oklahoma in opioid epidemic suit”

ABA Journal: “Opioids, justice & mercy: Courts are on the front lines of a lethal crisis”

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