In 2017, the parties to Canada-wide class action litigation reached an agreement to settle multiple proposed class actions commenced across Canada relating to addiction-related harms allegedly caused by the drugs OxyContin® and OxyNEO®. The implementation of the settlement agreement was conditional on it being approved by the courts of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan. All but the final court has approved the settlement.
In Saskatchewan, a lengthy and complex process has unfolded over the last few years. Most recently, we appeared before the Honourable Chief Justice M.D. Popescul of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench on September 4 and 5, 2019, to provide oral arguments on various issues that had to be addressed before the parties could continue with the application to obtain court approval of the settlement agreement. On October 31, 2019, the decision on the preliminary issues was released. We were successful on all issues before the Court, with the result being that (1) we may file further evidence in an effort to satisfy the Court that the settlement should be approved, and (2) the reapplication for judicial approval of the Settlement Agreement may be set down for hearing at the first reasonable opportunity. For clarity, the settlement has not yet been approved in Saskatchewan; however, the decision provides a further opportunity to seek approval of the settlement by way of another hearing in Court.
However, to complicate matters, the Purdue companies in the United States have declared bankruptcy, which has introduced a further obstacle to obtaining settlement approval from the Saskatchewan Court. Currently, the bankruptcy has had the effect of “staying”, i.e. temporarily suspending, proceedings against the Purdue entities. This has the effect of currently preventing us from moving forward to obtain court approval of the settlement agreement in Saskatchewan.
The Globe & Mail’s Karen Howlett published an article on November 12, 2020 that succinctly summarizes the protracted path this litigation has unfortunately taken. We provide you with that article here.