An Ohio jury found that three drugstore chains were responsible in the opioid trial; the judge decides damages in the spring

Author: Jerri-Lynn Scofield, he has served as a securities lawyer and derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile craftsmen.

Last week, in the first opioid jury verdict, the Ohio jury ruled that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart were responsible for the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit is part of an opioid cross-district litigation (MDL) presided over by Federal District Court Judge Dan Polster, which integrates more than 3,000 communities against drug distributors, manufacturers, and drugstore chains Cases filed. MDL was created by placing complex cases involving common factual issues under the supervision of a judge (see Opioid litigation: US Department of Justice seeks to participate in settlement negotiations More details about the MDL program).

Attorneys in Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio argued that the chain failed to stop filling out false prescriptions and prevent the counties from flooding opioids. The plaintiff successfully claimed that by providing addictive painkillers, chain pharmacies caused public nuisance-cleaning costs in each county exceeded $1 billion.

The number of pills shipped to these two counties in Ohio is jaw-dropping. Wall Street Journal According to the report (based on government data), between 2006 and 2012, more than 80 million opioids were shipped to Trumbull County-a population of less than 200,000-and 60 million opioids were shipped to Lake County-a population of approximately 230,000.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The verdicts reached after six weeks of trials were made in so-called “weathervane” cases closely watched by lawyers elsewhere. Similar cases across the country continue to be staged against drug manufacturers and distributors, but Tuesday’s judgment is the first against a wealthy drugstore chain.

Weathervane cases usually do not have precedent weight, but lawyers in similar cases across the country often use it as a signpost for settlement negotiations.

The Ohio jury only decides on the issue of liability. Judge Polster will determine the compensation that the chain pharmacy must pay. According to the “Wall Street Journal”, at a press conference after the verdict, the plaintiff’s lawyers in the two counties stated that they would demand $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.

Public hazard or not?

This decision was made after a major legal setback in early November and challenged the nuisance theory that forms the basis of many opioid claims. The Oklahoma Supreme Court-the state’s Supreme Court-voted 5 to 1 to overturn a judgment valued at $465 million against Johnson & Johnson in the 2019 bench trial.In addition, the California court dismissed the pollution claims against four pharmaceutical manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals (see Public hazard or not?Summary of opioid litigation).

According to the “Wall Street Journal”:

Although judges in opioid cases in Oklahoma and California recently ruled against the plaintiff’s public nuisance claims in cases involving drug manufacturers, some legal experts say it is difficult to say whether the Ohio case will be encountered on appeal. Similar fate. Public nuisance laws vary from state to state, which increases the possibility of different results in different jurisdictions.

“Generally speaking, pollution theory is very new and untested because it applies to the sale of controlled substances,” said Elizabeth Burch, a professor of law at the University of Georgia. “We are early in the overall distribution, and we don’t know if these are outliers or trendsetters.”

Unsurprisingly, the plaintiff’s a”torneys expressed appreciation for the jury’s verdict. Again, turning to the Wall Street Journal:

They said in a joint statement: “For decades, pharmacy chains have been watching pills flow out of their doors and causing harm, but they have not acted as required by law.” “On the contrary, these companies responded by opening more locations. , Flooding the community with pills and promoting the flow of opioids into the illegal secondary market.”

The lawyers of these companies disagreed and vowed to appeal. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Michael DeAngelis spokesperson CVS Health Company, Said the company strongly disagrees with the judgment. “Pharmacists fill out legal prescriptions from DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, FDA-approved drugs to treat actual patients in need,” he said, referring to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration .

Issued by Walgreens A statement After the trial, outline the arguments that will undoubtedly be raised in the appeal:

We will appeal this flawed judgment, which reflects a trial designed to benefit the plaintiff’s lawyers and is full of obvious legal and factual errors.

Among the many problems encountered in this trial, the judge, through his own research and sharing with other jurors, allowed the trial to continue after the jurors violated court rules. The judge even said that in his 22 years as a judge, he had never seen a juror do “such a thing”. We agreed with the plaintiff’s own lawyer. At the time, he said that it was his “moral obligation” to request a mistrial because of this. Misconduct by jurors. In addition, this judgment is inconsistent with courts across the country, which rejected the plaintiffs in opioid lawsuits in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, California, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The novel theory of “public nuisance” responsibility, to name a few.

The plaintiff’s lawyers sued Wal-Mart to find people with deep pockets, while ignoring the real cause of the opioid crisis—such as drug factory doctors, illegal drugs, and regulators who fell asleep during the switchover—they falsely claimed that pharmacists must be This method of second guessing on doctors has never been planned by the law, and many federal and state health regulatory agencies have stated that this will interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. As a leader in the pharmaceutical industry fighting the opioid crisis, Walmart is proud of our pharmacists, who are committed to helping patients face the complex network of conflicting federal and state opioid guidelines.

What happened next?

Although both parties have adopted legal stances, this ruling has pushed all those involved in these lawsuits on the path of reconciliation.according to New York Times:

“This is the first opioid trial against these well-known big names,” said Adam Zimmerman, who teaches large-scale litigation at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “They have always been the group of defendants least willing to settle, so this verdict is at least a small sign for them that these cases will not necessarily perform well before the jury.” He said this may prompt some pharmacy defendants to consider Reconcile instead of going to trial.

Now, while the Ohio judgment has somewhat rebalanced the recent rejection of the public nuisance theory of opioid claims by the Oklahoma Superior Court and the California Court, remember that public nuisance claims are It is based on state law, so a state’s ruling is neither relevant nor tied to another. As far as the overall progress of the lawsuit is concerned, it is still too early, and I support what I wrote in my post earlier this month (link to above):

I think I am sitting down to watch a performance by Die Walküre or Siegfried, because I have only heard Das Rheingold. These lawsuits are far from over, fat women have just begun to sing.

Zimmermann seemed to agree with my assessment. According to the New York Times:

But Mr. Zimmerman also pointed out that opioid lawsuits span the country and are planned to be heard in multiple state and federal courts. There is still a long way to go.

He said: “It’s more like playing many different ball games at the same time. The rules of each ball game are slightly different. We are almost all in the early stages,” he added, because each state has its own pollution law, and the most recent three The result may have little legal impact on the upcoming case.

So, this is the general situation of the litigation. What is the bigger problem: Opioid overdose? And their impact on the affected communities?

Alas, the New York Times also made it clear that, with the help and instigation of our political hegemon, the American public health system continues to fail the victims of the opioid crisis:

But even with the tens of thousands of opioid cases (the first of which was filed in 2014) progressing slowly, the urgency of seeking help from opioid-broken communities has not slowed down.New federal data Released last week showing death from opioid overdose During the pandemic, deaths from illegal opioids such as heroin and street fentanyl have soared, reaching record levels.

The figures reported by the Wall Street Journal reinforce this:

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1999, more than 70% of the nearly 841,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States have involved opioids.Over 100,000 fatal overdose cases occurred during the 12-month period ending April, three-quarters of which involved opioids and Mainly driven by fentanyl, CDC data display.

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