The City Attorney’s Office for the city of San Francisco has reached a settlement of over $230 million with the lone remaining defendant of its litigation. The settlement with the pharmacy chain Walgreens marks the end of more than five years of litigation for San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu.

Most opioid settlements have concluded before a trial could be completed, sometimes even before a jury is impaneled. By contrast, this settlement was reached by Walgreens after the 11-week trial had already concluded, and the only remaining legal question was how much Walgreens would pay for its liability.

Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in San Francisco’s favor, finding Walgreens liable for “substantially contributing to the opioid epidemic in San Francisco and perpetuating a widespread public nuisance.” According to a statement made by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office (SFAO), the court found that Walgreens over-dispensed opioids without conducting proper due diligence, and the chain also failed to identify, report, or halt suspicious orders as required by law. This marks the first time in the country that an opioid bench trial has found Walgreens liable, according to the SFAO. 

Despite being found liable, Walgreens claims that it “never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies,” according to a statement obtained by Law360. According to the statement, the settlement with the city of San Francisco was simply a way to focus on the company’s mission of “reimagining healthcare and wellbeing for our patients, customers and communities.”

According to the terms of the settlement, Walgreens will pay $229,610,000 over the course of 14 years. The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office claims that “the vast majority” of this money will be delivered before 2031. This settlement also marks the conclusion of the final defendant for a case that began in 2018. By the end of 2022, Walgreens was the only remaining holdout and therefore was the only party found liable by Judge Breyer.

City Attorney Chiu praised the settlement and outcome of the case, claiming that “Cities like San Francisco have shouldered much of the burden of the opioid epidemic. Thousands of attorneys, public health officials, and advocates have spent nearly two decades trying to hold the opioid industry accountable for creating this public health crisis. . . . Following our win against Walgreens during the liability phase, this historic agreement ensures Walgreens is held accountable for the crisis they fueled and our City receives appropriate resources to combat the opioid crisis and bring relief to our communities.” 

The funds from the opioid settlement will be distributed to address the opioid crisis impacting San Francisco. If you or a loved one have been injured by addiction to opioids, you may be able to file for compensation. Fill out a free case review to take your first steps toward justice.