Attorneys for Lake and Trumbull counties in northeastern Ohio claimed that the three pharmacy chains failed to stop the deadly pain pills from flooding into the two counties. They also alleged that the three chains failed to stop false opioid prescriptions from being filled.
"The counties argued that by enabling the opioid crisis the pharmacy companies had created a public nuisance costing them each about $1 billion in law-enforcement, social-services and court expenses," reported The Wall Street Journal.
In their rebuttals, the three companies claim that they tried to stop the pills from being illegally flooded, as well as followed all procedures required by both state and federal regulators.
They further claim that others are to blame for the opioid crisis, and that Lake and Trumbull counties failed to show that pharmacies played a "major role" in the epidemic.
"The verdict, delivered after a six-week trial, came in a so-called bellwether case that attorneys elsewhere have watched closely," the Journal further reported. (RELATED: Johnson & Johnson stopped manufacturing opioids entirely following a $230 million settlement.)
"Similar cases across the country continue to play out against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, but Tuesday's verdict was the first against deep-pocketed pharmacy chains."
While bellwether cases typically do not carry precedential weight, lawyers do tend to rely on them when handling similar cases. They are said to be "guideposts for settlement talks."
The Ohio ruling follows several others in both Oklahoma and California, which recently issued judgments against plaintiffs for public nuisance claims.
"The public-nuisance theory in general is pretty novel and untested as it applies to the sale of controlled substances," said Elizabeth Burch, a University of Georgia law professor.
"We're so early in the overall distribution that we don't know whether these are outliers or trendsetters."
In a joint statement, lawyers for the plaintiffs said that this is a major victory in holding the pharmaceutical industry, including pharmacy distributors of pharmaceuticals, responsible for their corrupt behavior.
"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," that statement reads.
"Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market."
All three companies say they are planning to appeal the verdict, arguing that Ohio's public-nuisance laws were incorrectly applied in this case.
A spokesman for CVS Health Corp. indicated that the company is very unhappy with the verdict, as it is not used to being held accountable for much of anything as a participator in the legal drug cartel racket.
"Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, FDA-approved substances to treat actual patients in need," this person said in a statement.
Walmart issued a statement alleging that plaintiffs are simply trying to pull money out of "deep pockets" while ignoring what the company claims are the real causes of the opioid crisis: pill mill doctors, regulators "asleep at the switch," and "illegal drugs."
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who oversaw the trial, will now have to determine how much the three companies must pay to deal with the public nuisance that was created in Lake and Trumbull counties.
Plaintiffs say they are seeking damages of $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively, for the two counties.
More of the latest news about Big Pharma and the opioid epidemic can be found at Corruption.news.
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