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Parents, children, and siblings of opioid abusers argued that three large-scale, drug distributors improperly supplied opioids to pharmacies, leading to “abuse of the drugs and the fallout that abuse brought with it.”3 Further, they argued that profit-driven distributors willingly and recklessly “flooded” the city of Brunswick and Glynn County with opioids. Even so, the jury found against the plaintiffs; though potentially sympathetic to the lives ruined by opioids, the jury remained unconvinced that all liability fell on the distributors.

On March 1, 2023, the jury found for the three, large‑scale drug distributors, finding the defendants neither liable under Georgia’s Drug Dealer Liability Act nor Georgia’s RICO statute when supplying opioids to pharmacies. As a case of first impression, Poppell, et al. v. Cardinal Health, et al., is one of the nation’s first state court, private‑plaintiff trials on the subject of opioids. Most prior claims were brought by government plaintiffs.

Poppell and future opioid‑related cases will likely follow the trends set by their predecessors, including those in the alcohol and tobacco realm. Inebriating substances, whether it be alcohol, tobacco, or opioids, have appeared in human history in one form or another for thousands of years, and there has always been an underlying acknowledgment of what overuse can lead to: dependency and addiction. Many of the same arguments used in alcohol and tobacco litigation apply to current opioid litigation, with varying success. Most litigation against companies, those who manufacture and those who distribute these products, have generally involved at least one of three types of claims: (1) negligence; (2) mislabeling/false advertising; and (3) public nuisance. This Comment will discuss the history of these types of claims and how trends set by the past continue with striking similarity to opioid litigation of the present.

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