Protesters holding banners outside the courthouse. Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a rally and die-in outside New York's Southern District Federal Court in White Plains.
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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an unusual case brought by the state of Arizona against the embattled Sackler family and their pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma.
Arizona alleged in its petition with the top court that the Sacklers, who have become embroiled in the nation's opioid epidemic over their signature drug OxyContin, unlawfully transferred billions of dollars out of their company in order to avoid liabilities stemming from thousands of lawsuits filed against them.
The state accused the the Sacklers of transferring $4 billion to themselves since 2008, and at least another $2 billion to companies under their control, in violation of a fraud statute on the books in 43 states. The Sackler family has denied Arizona's allegations.
The court announced that it will not hear the case in an order with no explanation and no noted dissents.
Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September as part of a tentative deal, valued at between $10 billion and $12 billion, to settle more than 2,000 opioid lawsuits filed by local governments, Native American tribes and states. The deal reportedly involved the Sackler family giving up $3 billion from their personal fortune.
A federal bankruptcy judge granted the Sacklers temporary legal protection against civil suits at the local and state level last month. The Sacklers and Purdue argued that the order applied to Arizona's Supreme Court fight, but the state said it did not and asked the court to take up the matter nonetheless.
OxyContin, a painkiller, is one of the most common drugs involved in prescription opioid deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Purdue Pharma is facing lawsuits in nearly every U.S. state over its aggressive marketing of the drug. More than 200,000 people died of overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2017, government data shows.
The suit filed by Arizona was a long shot. While the vast majority of cases come to the justices after being ruled on by the lower courts, the state argued that the top court had what's called "original jurisdiction" over the case, known as State of Arizona v. Richard Sackler, which would give it the ability to be the first court to review the matter.
Arizona argued that the court had original jurisdiction over the case because one of the parties involved was a state. The state argued that even if the court did not find that it has original jurisdiction, the case's exceptional importance merited review.
In addition to Richard Sackler, the suit also named Theresa Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, Mortimer Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt.
Representatives for the Sackler family, Arizona and Purdue Pharma did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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