The federal judge in charge of opioid litigation in San Francisco has shut down manufacturers’ attempts to pause litigation. This rejection will allow the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to proceed with litigation.
According to Law360, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer rejected two motions filed by collective groups of defendants accused of improperly dispensing opioids and contributing to the opioid epidemic. By allegedly overprescribing and dispensing medication recklessly, manufacturers created a public nuisance that failed to keep prescription opioids off of the black market.
In December 2021, manufacturers Allergan, Teva, Endo, and Par requested a pause from the litigation against them. This pause was justified by a judgment that was issued around the same time centering around another opioid-related case in Orange County, called The People of the State of California v. Purdue Pharma L.P. et al.
A short time later in January 2022, two more defendants, Walgreens and Anda, filed a separate motion that also requested a stay be issued for them. According to Judge Breyer, “Walgreens and Anda argue that if the Court stays the claims against Allergan, Teva, Endo, and Par, it should also stay the claims against them for reasons of efficiency and judicial economy.”
On February 23, 2022, Judge Breyer concluded that since “Non-Stayed Defendants’ motions center on the potential of the Orange County judgment to preclude at least some of the claims that Plaintiff asserts here,” he would not uphold the motion. “The arguments fail to persuade,” Judge Breyer stated, because “The Orange County judgment does not become final for purposes of claim preclusion until the appellate process is exhausted.”
While the latest motion to pause may have failed, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office will still need to prove their case to be more likely than not. In 2021, Orange County Judge Peter J. Wilson wrote a ruling stating that the manufacturers Allergan PLC, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its subsidiary Par Pharmaceutical Inc., could not be found liable for the opioid epidemic in California, even under public nuisance law.