UMass Law UMass Law: McDonald Interviewed on the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Case

UMass Law UMass Law: McDonald Interviewed on the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Case
McDonald Interviewed on the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Case

Professor McDonald was interviewed on the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case, which brings attention to the opioid epidemic.

Geoffrey McDonald


On December 4th, The Supreme Court heard arguments over a bankruptcy deal for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, that would give billions of dollars to those harmed by the opioid epidemic in exchange for shielding members of the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma’s owners, from additional opioid-related lawsuits. UMass Law Professor Geoff McDonald was interviewed for an article by MassLive on the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case, which involves one of the country’s largest public health crises. The article follows the story of a Massachusetts mother who has lost two sons to the opioid crisis. Cheryl Juaire, who is currently involved in a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, wants the settlement to move forward so billions of dollars can be released and used to help fund opioid addiction treatment and recovery.

In the interview, Professor McDonald discussed the caution used by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying “the case is controversial because the deal would shield individual members of the Sackler family from further liability, even though it is their company, not them as individuals, filing for bankruptcy.” Highlighting the cause of concern, Professor McDonald goes on to say, “the fear is that if this is approved all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, this will be a tool for corporations and the owners that stand behind the corporations to get more liability protection than they really deserve.”

With this deal, the Sackler family would receive immunity in exchange for paying up to $6 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits filed against Purdue Pharma. The case alleges that Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family knowingly misled the public about the addictive nature of the opioids it manufactured like OxyContin.

Professor McDonald described what this case means procedurally as follows: “This allows for billions of dollars to be made available to the victims of the opioid crisis.” He further explains: “Bankruptcy courts are courts of equity and they are trying to do justice. Absent that, there could be litigation going on for years.”

In his research, McDonald focuses on technical bankruptcy questions as well as the moral basis of bankruptcy, including the interrelated issues of debt, justice, and forgiveness, with particular emphasis on the constitutional and jurisprudential dimensions. His research interests also include constitutional law, especially constitutional rights, jurisprudence, ethical theory, and law/religion.

Before coming to UMass Law, Professor McDonald practiced law in New York City for fifteen years, including both private practice and public interest work. He represented creditors, debtors, trustees and other significant parties in interest in some of the largest, most prominent and complex Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases in this country. In the five years immediately prior to joining the UMass Law faculty, he worked as a public interest attorney in the South Bronx, where his practice was focused on preventing homelessness by providing free legal services to people facing eviction or foreclosure. He also worked extensively in the consumer bankruptcy context.

Professor McDonald received his B.A. in Philosophy from Wesleyan University, his M.A.R. in Philosophy of Religion from Yale University, where he also studied jurisprudence and legal philosophy at Yale Law School, his Ph.D. in Religion (Ethics & Society) and J.D. from Emory University, and his LL.M. in Bankruptcy from St. John’s University School of Law. Professor McDonald teaches in the areas of contracts and bankruptcy as well as jurisprudence and ethical theory.