Purdue Pharma bankruptcy judge sets aside 11 days for trial

A pharmacist holds a bottle OxyContin made by Purdue Pharma at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/George Frey
  • Trial to begin on Aug. 12
  • Legal protections for Sacklers remain key issue
  • Judge says he will 'cut people off' if they waste time

(Reuters) - The trial over Purdue Pharma’s settlement of opioid-related litigation will last up to 11 days, a judge said on Monday, warning parties that he will "cut people off if they are wasting time."

During a virtual status conference, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York set the stage for the trial that will determine whether the OxyContin maker can bring its nearly two-year-long Chapter 11 case to a close.

“You are — all of you — to fit within that time, period. Because I believe any capable lawyer can do so,” he said.

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Purdue’s bankruptcy reorganization plan rests on a settlement with the Sackler family members that own the company which protects them from future opioid-related claims in exchange for a $4.5 billion contribution to the deal.

The settlement has support from U.S. states, municipalities, hospitals, and individuals, but faces opposition from a handful of states and the U.S. Department of Justice’s bankruptcy watchdog, the U.S. Trustee.

Purdue says the deal, which steers funds toward opioid abatement programs, is worth more than $10 billion.

Critics of the settlement oppose the “third-party releases” that would provide legal protections to the Sacklers. The company has said that without the releases, the entire settlement, including billions of dollars for state and local opioid abatement programs, would collapse.

The trial will begin on Aug. 12 and continue for two weeks. Drain told lawyers during the conference on Monday that this is the most time he has ever reserved for a trial since he became a judge in 2002.

"I will simply cut people off if they are wasting time," he said.

Purdue's lawyers at Davis Polk & Wardwell estimated that unless the judge limited the trial time, at least 205 hours, or more than 29 days, could be spent just presenting evidence.

The case is In re Purdue Pharma LP, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-bk-23649.

For Purdue: Marshall Huebner, Benjamin Kaminetzky, Timothy Graulich, Eli Vonnegut and James McClammy of Davis Polk & Wardwell; and Paul Breene, Ann Kramer, Anthony Crawford and Lisa Szymanski of Reed Smith

For the opposing states: Andrew Troop and Andrew Alfano of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

For the U.S. Trustee: DOJ trial attorney Paul Schwartzberg

Read more:

Bankruptcy reform debate targets bad corporate actors, popular judges

15 more U.S. states reach settlement in OxyContin maker Purdue bankruptcy

Purdue Pharma to use public trusts, Sackler cash to settle opioid litigation

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Maria Chutchian reports on corporate bankruptcies and restructurings. She can be reached at maria.chutchian@thomsonreuters.com.