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Purdue Retaliates Against the Parent of an Opioid Victim Who Dares to Speak Out

posted by Adam Levitin

Another recent Purdue docket item caught my notice. It is an order approving a settlement between Peter Jackson, the parent of a teenage opioid overdose victim, and Purdue and the Personal Injury Ad Hoc Committee regarding discovery requests that Purdue and the PI Ad Hoc Committee served on Mr. Jackson. It's a minor episode in the overall bankruptcy, but shows just how nasty Purdue is willing to get to push through its plan.

Here's the story. Mr. Jackson filed a motion for the appointment of an examiner on June 1.  On June 4, he was served by Purdue and the PI Ad Hoc Committee with a set of Requests for Production of Documents (RFPs). I don't know exactly what Purdue and the PI Ad Hoc Committee were requesting, as the RFPs aren't themselves on the docket (although I don't think they're confidential), but the RFPs do not seem to have been about the examiner motion, given that Mr. Jackson responded to the RFPs the day before the motion hearing and negotiations about the RFPs continued after the examiner motion was granted. In the settlement, Mr. Jackson agreed to drop certain plan confirmation objections in exchange for the RFPs being withdrawn. That makes me think that the RFPs somehow related to plan confirmation. 

It is hard to see, however, what documents an individual like Mr. Jackson could possibly have that would be relevant for plan confirmation. A confirmation is about Purdue, not Mr. Jackson. Moreover, the court's confirmation protocols actually require Purdue and the PI Ad Hoc Committee have a "good faith belief that the additional discovery [they] seek is relevant to the Confirmation Proceedings." I have trouble seeing how such a request could have been filed in good faith. What documents could Mr. Jackson possibly have that are relevant to whether Purdue has complied with the provisions of 11 USC 1129? 

Instead, this looks like retaliatory discovery:  you dare create trouble by asking questions about the deal we've negotiated, and we're going to whack you with invasive discovery requests. Simply put, two of the world's largest law firms retaliated against the parent of an opioid victim for having the temerity to suggest—as he has a legal right to do—that an examiner might be appropriate in the case. While it's not shocking to see bare knuckle litigation harassment in a big bankruptcy, it is really troubling to see it going on in a case like Purdue. And it's even stranger to see the PI Ad Hoc Committee piling on.  I'm not sure what their standing would be, as the PI Ad Hoc Committee is not the plan proponent, but a fiduciary to Mr. Jackson. Retaliatory discovery requests is not how fiduciaries are supposed to treat their beneficiaries. And if everything has really been kosher and by the book in Purdue, why this sort of reaction? The only way an examiner would throw off a deal would be by actually finding some problems. The cost and delay for the limited examination Mr. Jackson had requested regarding the independence of the Special Committee would not have been material.

Retaliating against the parent of an opioid victim through discovery harassment is a bad look for Purdue (represented by Davis Polk) and for the Personal Injury Ad Hoc Committee (represented by White & Case). For shame.

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