A federal jury in Cleveland determined that three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains (CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens) were substantial contributors to the surge in opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties. This ruling marks the first time the retail branch of the drug industry has been considered partially responsible. The amount each of the three companies must pay will be determined following hearings in the spring, but this verdict should encourage plaintiffs in similar lawsuits all over the country who rely on a similar “public nuisance” legal strategy.
Previously, that argument has been rejected by judges in state cases against opioid manufacturers, claiming the companies’ activities did not have a close enough connection to the overdoses. But after a six-week trial, the 12-member jury sent a warning message that these cases won’t necessarily play out well in court, which could prod some pharmacy defendants to consider settlement instead of going to trial.