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California prosecutors sue Walgreens over waste disposal

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Walgreens employees improperly disposed of materials, prosecutors say
  • A lawsuit says the drug store chain broke California laws
  • Walgreens says it is working with local and state authorities
  • Attorney: "Walgreen's actions were systematic and statewide"

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A group of county and city prosecutors in California have sued Walgreen Co., alleging that the drug store chain broke state laws when disposing of hazardous waste, medical waste and customer records.

Prosecutors asked a judge this week to issue a preliminary injunction against the company.

The county and city attorneys originally filed a lawsuit in June, asked a judge to stop the company from improperly disposing of waste and consider fining the company for allegedly violating state laws.

"This wasn't an isolated incident. Walgreen's actions were systematic and statewide, and the company must be held accountable," Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich said in a statement Monday.

A company spokesman declined to comment on details of the case.

"We intend to work with state and local officials in order to resolve this matter," Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin said in a written statement.

The lawsuit, filed by 35 California district attorneys and two city attorneys, alleges that Walgreens stores improperly disposed of items like batteries, liquid corrosive waste, aerosol cans and pharmaceutical waste in company trash bins, sending them to local landfills rather than authorized disposal sites.

The complaint also says Walgreens improperly disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information, failing to take required steps to protect privacy.

The drug store chain should be fined, prosecutors say, under state health codes.

"Prosecutors contend that Walgreens systematically ignored those laws to cut costs," the Alameda County District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Walgreen Co. mentioned the lawsuit in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last month, citing regulations that require the company to disclose proceedings where monetary sanctions could exceed $100,000.

"The company intends to work with state and local officials in an effort to resolve this matter, but cannot predict the ultimate outcome of these efforts," the filing said.

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet and CNN en EspaƱol's Jaqueline Hurtado contributed to this report.

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