Legal Report: Courts Find Pharmacy Retailer Walgreens Liable for City’s Opioid Crisis
Opioid crisis. American retail pharmacy chain Walgreens has agreed to a $230 million settlement with San Francisco over the company’s involvement in the city’s opioid epidemic.
The settlement was the result of the city’s win in an 11-week liability trial in federal court, according to a press release from the city’s attorney. “Under the agreement, Walgreens will pay $229,610,000 over the course of 14 years, with the vast majority coming in the first eight years,” the press release said. “Settlement funds will go towards addressing the opioid crisis in San Francisco.”
A U.S. district court found Walgreens liable for over-dispensing opioids while lacking proper diligence and oversight. The decision is notable in that it was the first bench trial to hold the company liable.
The presiding judge determined that the company’s alleged misconduct—lasting 15 years—resulted in significant suffering of the city’s residents and the community. “…the evidence presented at trial supports a reasonable inference that from 2006 to 2020, Walgreens pharmacies in San Francisco filled a significant volume of illegitimate opioid prescriptions that caused more than negligible or theoretical harm in the city,” wrote Judge Charles Beyer in his conclusion of the case.
Some of the impacts on the city noted in court documents included “serious health and safety risks” to city employees and other residents—such as the regular presence of syringes and opioid-related materials in city parks.
However, with the settlement, litigation against the company will be dismissed.
The agreement requires final approval from the city’s board of supervisors and mayor. (City and County of San Francisco, et al., v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:18-cv-07591-CRB, 2023)
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Sex trafficking. German bank Deutsche Bank agreed to a $75 million settlement, closing a lawsuit where women accused the organization of facilitating Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking activities.
The bank was accused of failing to identify indicators that Epstein was involved in the illegal actions. Deutsche Bank said it had erred in making Epstein a client, according to Reuters.
The complaint was filed by a Jane Doe 1 in November 2022. As of Security Management’s deadline, the settlement is still pending approval by the federal judge. A preliminary hearing for the settlement is scheduled for 1 June. (Jane Doe 1, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, v. Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft, et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:22-cv-10018, 2023)
The LWVAZ filed the lawsuit against the group, Clean Elections USA, in October 2022. The suit alleged that Clean Elections had violated voter intimidation laws by surveilling and harassing voters who were using official ballot drop-boxes during the 2022 U.S. midterm election. Soon after the suit was filed, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Clean Elections, barring its members from being within 75 feet of any ballot box, as well as prohibiting intimidation or verbal harassment of anyone using the ballot box.
Although the terms of the May 2023 settlement remain confidential, the defendants agreed to publicly condemn any forms of voter intimidation, according to the LWVAZ. (League of Women Voters of Arizona v. Lions of Liberty, LLC, et al., US. District Court for the District of Arizona, No. 2:22-cv-01823-MTL, 2023)
The new law builds on the country’s existing laws against homosexuality, now allowing for “aggravated homosexuality”—defined as same-sex sexual activities where at least one of the people involved is HIV-positive, a child, or otherwise “vulnerable”—to be punishable by death.
Privacy. European Union regulators fined Facebook parent company Meta with a €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) fine for violating privacy laws. The company transferred Facebook users’ personal data to servers located in the United States, which constitutes a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) violation.
The fine, issued by the Irish Data Protection Authority, is the largest GDPR fine to date, according to a press release issued by the EU’s European Data Protection Board.
Meta said it planned to appeal the decision, according to CNN.
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Also of Interest
Security Management also tracks instances where security incidents and interests intersect with judicial, legislative, and regulatory agencies. The following are developing stories of potential significance.
6 January riot. A former FBI agent was arrested for his alleged involvement in the riot at the U.S. Capitol building on 6 January 2021.
Background checks. The proposed Fair Chance Act of 2023 would prohibit Californian employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications or from using an applicant’s criminal history to form a decision on whether to extend an applicant a job offer.
Civil rights. The U.S. state of California settled a civil rights case with the family of a man who died while in the custody of state highway patrol officers in 2020. The $24 million settlement comes after seven officers and a nurse were charged with the involuntary manslaughter of Edward Bronstein, who repeatedly told law enforcement that he couldn’t breathe while they tried to take a sample of his blood.
Discrimination. Goldman Sachs Group Inc agreed to pay $215 million to end a class action lawsuit against the company. The suit—originally filed almost 13 years ago—claims that Goldman Sachs was host to rampant bias against women when it came to salaries and promotions. The company has denied wrongdoing, and the settlement enables it to avoid a trial hearing.
Foreign Influence. Poland’s new law—which created a special committee empowered to investigate Russian influence within the country—has received scrutiny and concern from the EU and United States. Critics worry that the law could be used to attack political opponents. The law, which was signed on 30 May 2023, creates a new committee that can prosecute, judge, and levy penalties. It will specifically focus on the country’s internal security between 2007 and 2022, although it remains vague on what it defines as “Russian influence.”
Fraud. A British national pled guilty to hacking several Twitter accounts of notable people, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Wiz Khalifa, and more to launch a cryptocurrency scam. The Bitcoin scam would begin with tweets asking an account’s followers to send Bitcoin funds to an account with the promise that donors would receive double what was sent. The hacker faces a maximum sentence of more than 70 years in prison.
Gang violence. More than 30 members of Minneapolis, Minnesota, street gangs were indicted on federal charges, including racketeering conspiracy, murder, robbery, and drug trafficking.
Gun control. Colorado Governor Jared Polis enacted four gun control bills in late April. The laws raised the age limit to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21 and instituted a three-day wait between when a buyer purchases a gun and when it is received. Gun rights advocates have already sued to reverse those two new limits.
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Negligence. A North Carolina man is suing a water utility after firefighters were unable to extinguish the flames that destroyed his home and killed his dog. Firefighters tried to connect to three different hydrants, but a lack of water pressure left all three hydrants useless, according to the plaintiff.
Ransomware. The U.S. Department of Justice charged a Russian national with using ransomware to attack various critical infrastructure targets in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. The alleged attacker is reported to have gained up to $200 million in payments from victims. The U.S. Department of State announced an award of up to $10 million for information that leads to an arrest or conviction.
Remote work. Anti-telework bills were proposed in both houses of the U.S. Congress. H.R. 139 and S. 1565 would require federal agencies to revert back to telework policies, practices, and levels that were in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. House legislation was approved in February 2023, according to the DOJ.
Wildfire. California utility company Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) agreed to pay $50 million to end a criminal investigation into its involvement in the fatal 2020 Zogg Fire. Nearly $45 million of the settlement will go to local fire departments and districts, law enforcement, and community and nonprofit organizations impacted by the fire. PG&E will also pay a $5 million fine to Shasta County, California. The county’s District Attorney’s Office subsequently dropped the 11 criminal charges, including four felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and three felony counts of recklessly starting a fire. The Zogg Fire, which resulted in the deaths of four people and damaged more than 56,000 acres, was caused when a pin tree in contact with the utility’s electrical lines caught fire.