Nov. 23, 2021 – “The judgment today against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS represents the overdue reckoning for their complicity in creating a public nuisance,” the statement continued.

The public nuisance argument was rejected twice earlier this month, by judges in California and Oklahoma in  cases against opioid manufacturers. The judges ruled that the companies’ activities were too removed from the overdoses and deaths, and that this application of public nuisance law had been stretched beyond recognition.

But in this case, brought by Lake and Trumbull counties in northeastern Ohio, lawyers for the plaintiffs used the legal theory successfully. They argued that for years, the pharmacies turned a blind eye to countless red flags about suspicious opioid orders, both at the local counter with patients and at corporate headquarters, whose oversight requirements were, according to Mark Lanier, the counties’ lead trial lawyer, “Too little, too late.”

The 12-member jury deliberated for five-and-a-half days, after a six-week trial.

The deep-pocketed retailers were the last cluster of pharmaceutical corporations to be pursued in the courts and the most resistant to negotiating broad settlements. To date, they have faced fewer lawsuits than other pharmaceutical companies.

This past summer, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS Health and Walmart settled with two New York counties, Nassau and Suffolk, for a combined $26 million. In the Ohio case, Rite Aid and Giant Eagle, a regional chain, settled earlier for undisclosed sums.


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