Supermarket chain Kroger has reached a potential $1.2 billion agreement in principle to settle a majority of claims made by states, local governments and Native American tribes that accused the company of helping fuel the opioid epidemic.
Kroger announced Friday it has agreed to pay up to $1.2 billion to states and local governments, and $36 million to Native American tribes, in funding for opioid abatement efforts. Both amounts would be paid over the course of 11 years in equal installments, beginning in December.
The company said all parties — 33 eligible states and the District of Columbia, along with tribes and municipalities — will have an opportunity to opt-in to participate in the settlement. If all conditions are satisfied, the settlement would allow for the “full resolution of all claims.”
Kroger said in a statement that the potential settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability and that the company “will continue to vigorously defend against any other claims and lawsuits relating to opioids that the final agreement does not resolve.”
There have been thousands of lawsuits filed against drug distributors, pharmacies and wholesalers for contributing to the opioid crisis.
Last fall, Walmart agreed to pay $3.1 billion to settle claims. CVS and Walgreens also agreed to settle and pay about $5 billion each.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said the settlement announced Friday was an important step toward holding each company that played a role in the opioid epidemic accountable.
The agreement “is the first involving one of the smaller, regional supermarket pharmacies that still played a significant part in the opioid crisis. With many cases against regional pharmacy defendants still pending, we will continue to aggressively litigate these remaining cases,” the attorneys said.
They also encouraged all eligible states and municipalities to join the agreement “to expedite the process of providing these life-saving resources where they are needed most.”
Kroger said it expects to take a $1.4 billion charge during the second quarter of 2023 related to the settlements and associated legal fees, “which will negatively impact earnings.”
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