Judge Orders $572 Million Settlement of Opioid Lawsuit
On August 26, an Oklahoma judge made a ruling that could be the first of many against manufacturers of opioids that are being blamed for the opioid epidemic.
Judge Thad Balkman ruled Johnson & Johnson intentionally exaggerated the benefits of opioids and downplayed the risks and ordered the company to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 for addiction treatment, drug courts and other services to fight the opioid epidemic.
In the ruling, the judge said Johnson & Johnson’s marketing campaigns for opioids were false, misleading and dangerous. These campaigns helped to increase rates of addiction, babies born exposed to these drugs and overdose deaths. The judge also found Johnson & Johnson breached Oklahoma’s public nuisance law.
Making the Case Against Johnson & Johnson
The $572 million ruling is much less than the $17 billion Oklahoma was seeking to try to deal with the effects of the opioid crisis over the next 20 years. However, Oklahoma has been able to recover nearly $1 billion when you combine previous settlements with Purdue Pharma ($270 million) and Teva Pharmaceuticals ($85 million).
These settlements made things more difficult for the state of Oklahoma in the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. Attorneys for the state had to make the case that Johnson & Johnson was the main culprit in the state’s opioid problem, even though the company’s sale of opioids represented just one percent of the market.
However, between 2000 and 2011, salespeople from Johnson & Johnson made approximately 150,000 visits to Oklahoma doctors, particularly those who were high-volume prescribers. The company also supplied most of the opioid material used by other companies to manufacture drugs.
The lead attorney for the state of Oklahoma said the company has continued to deny responsibility for the problem and has made billions from the sale of opioids over the last 20 years.
More than 2,000 cities and counties have pending lawsuits in federal court concerning the opioid epidemic. Lawyers representing these jurisdictions released a statement saying this ruling is a “critical step forward.”
Response from Johnson & Johnson
An attorney for Johnson & Johnson said the company has strong grounds for filing an appeal and intends to do so. The general counsel and executive vice president of the company said the company did not cause the opioid crisis and the idea that it did is not supported by the law or the facts.
Lawyers for the manufacturer also said the state was reshaping public nuisance law in ways that were not intended. The company also said Oklahoma failed to identify a doctor who had been misled by marketing about the dangers of opioids.
It is unclear if the judge’s ruling will stand up on appeal, as judges may be skeptical of the legal theories used in the case and Johnson & Johnson’s liability.
Call Phillips Law Group to Discuss Your Claim
People who became addicted to opioids or lost loved ones to overdoses may have a claim against the manufacturer or other parties.
You can discuss eligibility for an opioid lawsuit in a free consultation with a licensed defective drug lawyer from Phillips Law Group today. There is no obligation to take legal action if we find you may have a case.
Our attorneys are prepared to pursue compensation for damages if you have a valid case, and we can manage the entire legal process on your behalf.
We are here to help. Call 1-800-706-3000 today.
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