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As more lawsuits accuse Purdue Pharma of fomenting the opioid crisis, the Sackler family that controls the drug maker is increasingly being targeted, since some members were directors and executives for many years. But while holding directors liable for corporate conduct is rare, the points raised in an expert report filed in a case brought by the state of Utah may provide clues for winning the argument.

At issue is the extent to which Richard Sackler and Kathe Sackler, who are cousins and controlling shareholders, may have dominated managerial decision-making in ways that extended beyond their roles as ordinary directors. Both were board members from 1990 until 2018, and also held various high-ranking executive jobs over a number of years.


In its complaint, Utah argued the Sacklers were unusually involved in key decisions and, therefore, should be held responsible for efforts that misled doctors about the addictive properties of the OxyContin painkiller. The drug maker declined comment, but in court filings, the Sacklers denied wielding outsized control, engaging in misconduct, or making any misstatements about the opioid painkiller.

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