The regular folks who make up juries may give more heed than judges and justices do to the how and why of patients’ push for justice in the civil system, as has been shown in yet another bellwether decision involving major drug store chains and claims they contributed to the nation’s worsening opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.
CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart all contributed substantially to creating a public nuisance by failing to ask appropriate questions and flooding Lake and Trumbull, two Ohio counties, with countless numbers of prescription painkillers, 12 jurors in a Cleveland court found after a six-week trial and 5½ days of deliberation. As the New York Times reported of the lawyers for the plaintiff counties and their successful argument, the “first time the retail segment of the drug industry has been held accountable in the decades-long epidemic….”
“After hearings in the spring, the trial judge will determine how much each company should pay the counties. The verdict — the first from a jury in an opioid case — was encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide because they are all relying on the same legal strategy: that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a “public nuisance,” a claim that plaintiffs contend covers the public health crisis created by opioids. The public nuisance argument was rejected twice this month, by judges in California and Oklahoma in state cases against opioid manufacturers. The judges found that according to the specifics of their own states’ public nuisance laws, the companies’ activities were too removed from the overdoses and deaths and that the laws had been applied too expansively.