First Opioid Jury Verdict Holds Pharmacy Chains, CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart Responsible for Opioid Epidemic

Ohio Federal Court

Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholders Served on the Trial Team Representing Lake and Trumbull Counties.

Ohio Federal Court
The American flag flies in front of the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse building in downtown Cleveland, OH where thousands of lawsuits brought by cities and counties nationwide were consolidated into the National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL). A jury returned a verdict Tuesday holding CVS, Walgreens and Wal-mart responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic by failing to stop the flow of opioid pills into two Ohio counties.

An Ohio jury reached a landmark verdict on Tuesday in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL) finding that three of the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains are responsible for the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic in the Ohio counties of Lake and Trumbull.

The federal jury found that defendants Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in the two counties and contributed to creating the public nuisance of the opioid epidemic. It is the first jury verdict in an opioids case nationwide.

“The jury verdict sends a strong message to these giant pharmacy companies that the American public expects them to fulfill their obligations as good corporate citizens. When companies put profits over people’s lives, they will be held accountable,” said Shareholder Jayne Conroy who serves as Co-lead of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee that leads the NPOL. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to advancing the global resolution to secure much needed funds for communities nationwide to confront the ongoing public health crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Laura Fitzpatrick served on the courtroom trial team in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio. Shareholder Holly Nighbert helped oversee the case’s exhibits. Shareholders Sarah Burns, Justin Presnal, Tom Sheridan, Ellyn Hurd, JoAnna Pollock, Sandy Smokler and Andrea Bierstein were also instrumental in the case.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster is expected to determine how much the companies will pay when the trial proceeds to the damages portion of the case in Spring 2022. The economic toll of the opioid epidemic on the counties is estimated at more than $1 billion per county.

Conroy issued the following statement, along with co-leads Joseph F. Rice of Motley Rice LLC and Paul T. Farrell Jr. of Farrell & Fuller LLC; as well as the trial co-leads on behalf of Lake County and Trumbull County, Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, Frank L. Gallucci III of Plevin & Gallucci Co., and Peter H. Weinberger of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP:

“Today’s verdict represents a milestone victory for the Lake County and Trumbull County communities, and the entire country, in the fight against the opioid epidemic. We commend the jurors for their service and their decision to hold pharmacy chains accountable for perpetuating this public health crisis in the first trial outcome in the federal litigation of over 3,000 communities. We also extend our thanks to our clients, the experts, and key witnesses who came forward and helped us shine a light on how reckless corporate practices led to the ongoing loss of lives and livelihoods in Ohio. 

For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law. Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market. The judgment today against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS represents the overdue reckoning for their complicity in creating a public nuisance.

Though this is welcome news, our work is not finished. Our focus now will be to ensure the Lake and Trumbull communities have the funds they need to support proven opioid abatement programs and strategies. 

We also hope that this positive outcome is one of many to come in the federal opioid litigation as more towns, cities, and counties get their day in court to hold opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies accountable.” 

The trial lasted two months and the jury deliberated for six days. It is the third bellwether trial in the NPOL. In addition, the firm’s legal support staff including Jill Kraus, Stephanie Wedding, Erin Sternickle and Julie Bond provided significant support throughout the course of the case.

The cases are County of Lake v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 1:18-op-45032, County of Trumbull v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 1:18-op-45079, and In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, case number 1:17-md-02804, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

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