As reported by Law360, a pivotal legal victory has been achieved in the fight against the U.S. opioid crisis, with Walgreens agreeing to a $230 million payment to the city of San Francisco. The payment is the culmination of an intense bench trial which established Walgreens’ culpability for its part in the city’s opioid epidemic.
Of all defendants, only Walgreens remained at trial by the end of an intense 11-weeks of argument and the presentation of evidence. The litigation scrutinized the entirety of the pharmaceutical supply chain, encompassing drug manufacturing, advertising, distribution, and pharmaceutical dispensing.
The case serves as a significant bellwether in the national multidistrict litigation targeting the opioid industry, establishing a precedent that is expected to prompt further negotiations and stimulate high-value settlements across the U.S. Lieff Cabraser partner Elizabeth Cabraser, who served as Co-Lead Counsel for the City and County of San Francisco, emphasized the potential nationwide “ripple effect” of the trial.
Expert testimony during the trial estimated that over 40,000 individuals in San Francisco were grappling with “opioid use disorder”. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, overseeing the case, concluded that Walgreens’ actions had exacerbated the local opioid crisis, thereby escalating crime and homelessness, overtaxing the city’s healthcare facilities, and necessitating the closure of streets, parks, and other public spaces.
Judge Breyer’s scathing judgment held Walgreens accountable for significantly contributing to the city’s opioid epidemic and perpetuating a public nuisance. He asserted that, in spite of Walgreens’ avoidance of any admission of liability, the “historic agreement” as he describes it serves to ensure the corporation’s responsibility for the crisis it helped fuel.
The full article is available on Law360’s website (subscription required).
Learn more about Lieff Cabraser’s work on the landmark opioid trial against Walgreens.