Pharmacy Chains Ordered to Pay Ohio Counties $650M

They lost a landmark opioids case last year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 17, 2022 4:47 PM CDT
Pharmacy Chains Ordered to Pay Ohio Counties $650M
This combination of file photos show the signs of CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens.   (AP Photo/File)

(Newser) – A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, claiming the way they distributed opioids to customers caused severe harm to communities and created a public nuisance. US District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money will be used to abate a continuing opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland, the AP reports. Attorneys for the counties put the total price tag at $3 billion for the damage done to the counties.

Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda praised the award, saying "the harms caused by this devastating epidemic" can now be addressed. Lake County is to receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County is to receive $444 million over the same period. Polster ordered the companies to immediately pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years of the abatement plan. In his ruling, Polster admonished the companies, saying they "squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance" after a trial that considered what damages they might owe. Walmart and Walgreens both said they will be appealing the ruling. CVS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A jury returned a verdict in November in favor of the counties after a six-week trial. It was then left to Polster to decide how much the counties should receive from the three pharmacy companies. He heard testimony in May to determine damages. The counties convinced the jury that the pharmacies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities. It was the first time pharmacy companies completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed a half-million Americans since 1999. Two chains—Rite Aid and Giant Eagle—settled lawsuits with the counties before trial. (Read more opioids stories.)

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