Monday, November 29, 2021

Jury awards millions in damages against white nationalists for injuries caused during "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville

After a monthlong trial, a jury in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville found the white nationalists liable on four counts in a lawsuit filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during two days of demonstrations.  The jury awarded more than $25 million in damages for the injuries suffered after violence that erupted during the 2017 Unite the Right rally.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs invoked a 150-year-old law passed after the civil war to shield freed slaves from violence and protect their civil rights. Commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law contains a rarely used provision that allows private citizens to sue other citizens for civil rights violations.

For more coverage you can check:  Politico. Jurist, NPR, ABA Journal, The Guardian, Above the Law, and Democracy Now.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Oklahoma Supreme Court reverses judgment against opioid manufacturers in public nuisance case; but lower court in Ohio finds against pharmacies

About three weeks ago, (on November 7) I posted a story about a decision in California dismissing a claim for public nuisance against several opioid manufacturers and distributors.  Two days after that, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma announced a decision reversing a trial court's judgment against opioid manufacturers in a similar case.  The case is State ex rel. Hunter v. Johnson and Johnson and you can find it here.

These two decisions resulted in an article in the NY Times with the very descriptive title "The Core Legal Strategy Against Opioid Companies May Be Faltering."  You can read it here.

Yet, a couple of weeks later a jury in Ohio found that three retail pharmacy chains created a public nuisance by recklessly distributing vast amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties.  See here.  I have no doubt this verdict will be appealed. 

Evidently, the litigation over the opioid crisis is a big deal.  There are thousands of pending cases and how each is decided ultimately will influence how the issue is addressed in other jurisdictions.  

If we go by history, the use of public nuisance as a way to address social problems created by distribution of products has not been successful.  The vast majority of cases that attempted it failed, including cases against tobacco companies, lead paint manufacturers and gun manufacturers and distributors.  For this reason, the cases against opioid manufacturers are going to be difficult to win.  But it is possible courts will change their view on this.  I am very interested in following this story which will not go away any time soon.

Here is a short PBS News report that summarizes many of the issues involved in the current litigation.  (While you are at it, if you are interested, you can find many other videos on the topic of the opioid crisis on YouTube.)

More coverage on the verdict against the pharmacy chains here:, ABA Journal, NPR, The Guardian, and Courthouse News.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Judge recently issued a "tentative decision" against the plaintiffs in California case related to opioid crisis

If you have been watching "Dopesick" on Hulu or "Goliath" on Amazon Primes, you might be disappointed to hear that this week a judge in California issued a "tentative decision" holding that a lawsuit seeking to hold drug companies liable for the opioid crisis must fail because the plaintiffs didn’t show that false and misleading marketing caused an increase in medically inappropriate prescriptions.  The defendants included Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo International and AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan unit.

More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed by state and local governments over the opioid crisis. In the only other case that went to trial, an Oklahoma judge found Johnson & Johnson liable for $465 million. 

The ABA Journal has the full story here.  Reuters has more here, and NPR's coverage is here.