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The State of Oklahoma filed suit against pharmaceutical manufacturers alleging their marketing, promotion and sales of opioid drugs in Oklahoma led to an opioid epidemic that constituted a violation of the state’s public nuisance law. On 8/26/19, an Oklahoma district judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million dollars to abate the public nuisance. In his 42 page judgment after a 33 day trial involving 42 witnesses and 874 exhibits, the judge laid out the history of the opioid crisis in Oklahoma and the rest of the country, and his conclusions that the defendants engaged in false and misleading marketing of their drugs in violation of Oklahoma’s public nuisance law.
Attorneys on both sides of the issue have been watching the Oklahoma case as several other states have sued drug manufacturers for their role in the nationwide crisis. The State of Texas, Bexar County, Harris County, the City of Houston, and McLennan County (to name a few) have all filed suit against Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, the defendants in the Oklahoma lawsuit.
A federal trial is scheduled to begin this fall in Ohio involving almost 2,000 cases brought by cities, counties, communities and tribal lands claiming the drug companies caused the epidemic. On the heels of the Oklahoma judgment, according to a Washington Post article published 08/27/19, Purdue Pharma, one of the common defendants in all of the pending opioid litigation, has offered to settle the federal suit for around $12 billion, including $3 billion in personal funds from the family who owns the company. The family would relinquish control of the company and declare bankruptcy as part of the deal. According to the article, the plaintiffs are considering the deal seriously in light of the fact that Purdue is likely headed to bankruptcy soon, regardless of the outcome of settlement negotiations.
Shortly after the Oklahoma judgment was entered, Johnson & Johnson attorneys announced their plan to appeal the judgment. It promises to be a long and drawn out process, but Round One of this test case goes to the plaintiffs.
- Copyright 2019, Stone Loughlin & Swanson, LLP