Landmark Opioid Litigation Trial Begins In San Francisco

The federal trial will examine the role of opioid manufacturers Allergan and Teva, distributor Anda, and Walgreens pharmacy in fueling the opioid epidemic in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (April 25, 2022) — A landmark trial begins today in San Francisco with the People of the State of California, acting by and through San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu against opioid manufacturers Allergan and Teva, distributor Anda, and Walgreens pharmacy. The bench trial will take place before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California with Judge Charles R. Breyer presiding.

City Attorney David Chiu and deputy city attorneys outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.

Brought on behalf of the People of the State of California, the lawsuit alleges that opioid manufacturers Allergan and Teva engaged in deceptive marketing practices that misrepresented the dangers of their pills and that all defendants, including Anda and Walgreens, failed to identify, divert, and report suspicious orders as required by law. Walgreens pharmacy is also accused of over-dispensing opioids without proper due diligence against fraud and diversion.

“This trial will give voice to the tragic experiences and ongoing needs of our community on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. “For too long, the people of San Francisco have had to shoulder the burden of the opioid epidemic. It’s time for these companies to pay for the crisis they created. We look forward to presenting our case and securing the funds we need to heal.”

The People allege that these corporate practices fueled a widespread surge of opioid-related addiction and overdose in San Francisco, thereby creating an ongoing public nuisance in the region. From 2006 to 2014, San Francisco County saw 163,645,704 opioids distributed, enough for 22 pills per person per year. Between 2015 and 2020, San Francisco saw a 478% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths, and in a typical day at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital  (ZSFG) Emergency Department, approximately 25 percent of visits are opioid-related.

The lawsuit seeks funds to abate the public nuisance, as well as injunctive relief and civil penalties to repair the damage caused from the opioid epidemic and prevent such practices in the future.

This trial is the fourth bellwether case in the federal opioid litigation proceeding involving more than 3,000 American cities, towns, and counties, bringing opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy chains to court for fueling the opioid epidemic. This case will serve as a test trial to help reach resolutions and seek accountability for the destruction these companies caused.

For San Francisco and communities around the country decimated by the opioid epidemic, litigation is a vital tool to secure the resources they need now to implement specific programs required at the local level and sustain the costly, decades-long recovery process ahead.

In a joint statement, National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee co-leads Paul T. Farrell Jr. of Farrell & Fuller Law LLC, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC, said:

“The manufacturers’ false marketing campaigns and Walgreens’ failure to report and prevent suspicious opioid orders has led to an unprecedented, unyielding public health crisis in San Francisco and across the United States. The federal opioid litigation exists to facilitate the long overdue process of corporate accountability we have seen occur in courts across the country over the past several months. We look forward to seeing the same process unfold in San Francisco in the days to come. This trial serves as an opportunity to provide financial relief to support local recovery efforts while shedding light on the defendants’ concerted efforts to sidestep their obligations under law.”

This trial follows a jury verdict from November 23, 2021, in the federal trial in the Northern District of Ohio that found CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart liable for fueling the opioid crisis in Lake County and Trumbull County of Ohio. A judge will determine the value of the opioid epidemic abatement funds owed by pharmacy chains to these communities in May of 2022.

The general public and members of the media can find information about how to listen to the proceedings here.

The case is City and County of San Francisco, et al., v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-07591-CRB.