🗞️What Is Retail Pharmacy's Role In The Opioid Crisis?
This week: National pharmacy chains face their first opioid verdict, a gaming platform sues one of its trolls, and a former Pentagon head fights censors. Plus, prosecuting plane passengers, and starting salaries face inflation.
Consider it the first major blow to CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart over their contested role in the opioid epidemic. A federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio, has ruled that the three corporate giants are liable for creating a public nuisance in the sale and marketing of opiates to residents of Lake and Trumbull counties outside Cleveland. This is the first time a jury has found retail pharmacies guilty for their role in the crisis.
“The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted,” said prosecutor Mark Lanier, an attorney for the two counties, according to the Associated Press.
Following a hearing in the Spring, US District Judge Dan Polster will determine damages to be paid by the three companies. The three retailers along with RiteAid settled a suit in two New York counties recently for a combined $26 million, while in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court overturned a $465 million ruling against Johnson & Johnson.
A Winning Strategy
State and local governments across the country are using "public nuisance" as the legal basis of their claims against retail pharmacy chains and drugmakers. However, two such trials—state cases in California and Oklahoma—were already rejected by their presiding judges who found that the law was being applied "too expansively" as per the specifics of public nuisance laws in each state, notes The New York Times. Yet, the Ohio verdict was delivered by a jury and not a judge, which changes the calculations for drugmakers, pharmacies, and prosecutors alike.
The guilty verdict against Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart was a huge victory for public health and community safety advocates in Ohio and beyond, proving that such a legal strategy can work. However, appeals are definitely on their way, and taking the case out of the hands of jurors may be a winning strategy for these companies.
Gaming platform Roblox is suing Benjamin Robert Simon, a YouTube creator more commonly known online as Ruben Sim, for what the company claims was his role in leading a cyber-mob that temporarily shut down Roblox's October developers conference. Lawyers for Roblox say Sim made "terrorist threats" that led to San Francisco police and private security for the event to lockdown the conference and conduct a sweep. The investigation cost Roblox $50,000, and the company is suing the gaming influencer for $1.6 million in damages.
Sim "glamorized" a 2018 shooting at the YouTube headquarters to his followers in the lead-up to Roblox's conference, then said "wait until [someone] does it to Roblox” and tweeted that SFPD were searching for a “notorious Islamic Extremist” at the event, states The Verge. Sim has since deleted several tweets.
According to Polygon, Sim has been banned from the Roblox platform for years following his sexual harassment of other users as well as the use of various racial and homophobic slurs. However, he continues to access the platform via hacking to use other people's accounts.
Echoes Of Gamergate
Roblox had some 32.6 million daily users in 2020—many of whom are children—and the company is worth $45 billion, notes the New York Times. But with that massive success, Roblox (and other gaming platforms, like Twitch) continue to deal with a deeply toxic gaming culture of sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, and other threats against users—particularly women. In 2014, online gamers rallied around the hashtag #GamerGate to conduct a harassment campaign directed at several women in gaming media. The incident has since been regarded as a turning point in the industry.
The gaming industry no doubt has a problem with trolls and toxic behavior. It's very fortunate that no one was hurt during Roblox's October event, but how does the company (and the industry at large) better protect its users? Will a $1.6 million lawsuit set a firmer precedent?
Is the Pentagon guarding classified information or obstructing free speech? That's the question at the center of a case between former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the department he once ran. Esper attests he followed the formal process of approval for his forthcoming book, having submitted his unpublished manuscript to the Pentagon in May, only to receive some 60 pages of redactions he claims are unfounded.
"For nearly six months, I patiently followed the formal process, only to have my unclassified manuscript arbitrarily redacted without clearly being told why," Esper said in a statement, according to NPR.
The Pentagon has declined comment on the matter citing ongoing litigation.
Esper's memoir, scheduled for a May 2022 release, chronicles his time from Secretary of the Army, to Defense Secretary, to his ultimate firing by former President Trump via a tweet in November 2020. The various redactions Esper was asked to make include not quoting "former President Trump and others in meetings, to not describe conversations between the former president and [Esper], and to not use certain verbs or nouns when describing historical events," notes the New York Times.
With a flurry of books about the inside workings of the Trump Administration coming to print over the last year, it's a surprise that Esper's is being singled out for its contents. That being said, a little public controversy never hurt anyone's book sales.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Fight Or Flight: The DOJ will make prosecuting unruly airline passengers a new priority, reports NPR. The move comes "amid record levels of unruly, criminal passenger behavior on planes."
Fair Pay: The starting salary for prosecutors is not keeping up with inflation, according to the ABA Journal. While salaries have remained mostly flat since January 2020, the required caseload for starting prosecutors has grown tremendously as inflation is rising too.
🎧 Music we’re working to
Today we’re listening to Picnic, the first full length collaboration between Melbourne based Justin Cantrell and Kansas based Ryan Loecker. This album is a full celebration of ambient music, with some tracks almost approaching ASMR. Described as ‘haunting’, ‘ethereal’, the album also features 4 remixes by guest artists, allowing you to enjoy different interpretations on one disc.
How would you rate this week’s newsletter? 🤔
See ya next week!