J&J liable for opioid crisis in Oklahoma: 9 things to know

An Oklahoma judge ruled Aug. 26 that Johnson & Johnson was liable for fueling the opioid epidemic in the state and ordered the drugmaker to pay $572 million, according to The New York Times. This is the first ruling in the U.S. that holds a drugmaker accountable for a role in the opioid crisis. 

Nine things to know:

1. The case, filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, was the first of thousands of lawsuits against drugmakers and distributors to go to trial over the opioid crisis. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman presided over the seven-week bench trial.

2. Mr. Hunter argued in the trial that J&J's marketing and sales practices led to an oversupply of addictive opioids and a "public nuisance" in Oklahoma. 

3. Attorneys representing the drugmaker argued that the "public nuisance" claim is unfounded, saying the disputes over the law in the state were previously limited to just property or public spaces.

4. In his ruling, the judge said: "The state met its burden that the defendants Janssen and Johnson & Johnson's misleading marketing and promotion of opioids created a nuisance as defined by [the law]," including a finding that those actions put the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans at risk, according to CNBC. 

5. J&J said it would appeal the decision and called the case "flawed," according to CNBC. 

6. The Oklahoma attorney general had asked Mr. Balkman to make J&J pay more than $17 billion to the state. J&J was ordered to pay a fraction of that amount. Its shares rose 5 percent in extended trading after the decision, according to Bloomberg.

7. The judge said the $572 million judgment could pay for a year's worth of services needed to combat the opioid epidemic in the state. 

8. The trial came after Oklahoma had already resolved claims against Purdue Pharma for $270 million and Teva Pharmaceuticals for $85 million. J&J was the sole defender. 

9. Because the ruling against J&J could have a ripple effect on outstanding opioid litigation, the case was watched closely by two dozen opioid makers, distributors and retailers that face thousands of similar lawsuits across the country.

 

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