A jury on Thursday found that the opioid manufacturer and distributor Teva Pharmaceuticals contributed to the opioid crisis in New York, overwhelming the state with prescription painkillers that led to thousands of deaths – only the second opioid-related case to reach a jury verdict, the New York Times reports. Thousands of similar claims around the country have been filed by municipalities, tribes and states, who are closely watching these outcomes for hints about how to proceed in their own cases. Last month, a federal jury in Ohio found three retail pharmacy chains liable for their role in the epidemic. But the New York trial is the first to include different types of companies in the opioid supply chain.
Lawyers for New York and two counties accused Teva and its subsidiaries of downplaying the drugs’ addiction risk, marketing opioids for unapproved uses and failing to prevent the drugs from flooding the market. Jurors also said that New York State, which is supposed to enforce controlled substances laws, shouldered a modest portion of responsibility. Lawyers argued that the companies helped perpetuate a “public nuisance,” a legal claim that refers to a substantial, ongoing interference with a public right, often used in environmental pollution cases. The trial was held on Long Island, where between 2010 and 2018, the rate of overdose deaths involving any opioid more than doubled, according to state data. In 2019, opioid overdose deaths hit above 1,600 in Nassau County and above 3,000 in Suffolk County. The amount that Teva and its companies will have to pay will be assessed sometime in 2022. The six-member jury deliberated for nine days.