The Beasley Allen Law Firm applauds Judge Thad Balkman’s landmark decision to hold Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals accountable for their part in fueling the national opioid epidemic. The ruling followed the first-of-its-kind trial in Oklahoma’s Cleveland County District Court this week. The firm has filed similar lawsuits on behalf of a number of Alabama municipalities and counties, as well as several governmental entities in other states. Firm lawyers handling the opioid litigation see the $572 million ruling as a positive indication that other plaintiffs will also obtain justice.
“The verdict in Oklahoma should bring all of the corporate entities to the table and result in a global settlement covering all of the pending litigation,” firm founder Jere Beasley said. “Huge corporations like Johnson & Johnson lied to the government, the medical community and to the American people and have created a national crisis that will go down in history as one of the worst health-related crises of all time. More than 400,000 innocent victims have died from overdoses and there are hundreds of thousands more who are addicted and suffering today. The economic loss across the U.S. is in the billions of dollars. The opioid epidemic was the result of greed, deception and a total disregard for human life. But for the judicial system, the crisis would have continued to harm, destroy and kill.”
Judge Balkman agreed with the State of Oklahoma that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen conducted a misleading marketing campaign promoting their highly addictive opioid prescription medications, downplaying the risk of addiction and even claiming patients who appeared addicted to the drugs were suffering from “pseudoaddiction” and should be given more of the drugs to address under-treated pain. The claims are similar to those made by Beasley Allen clients who argue that greed and reckless corporate behavior put their communities in the crosshairs of the opioid epidemic.
In issuing his ruling, Judge Balkman called the opioid crisis gripping Oklahoma an “imminent danger and menace,” and levied the verdict after finding “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 compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.”
Nationally, opioids are responsible for killing more than 218,000 people since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017, overdose deaths were five times higher than in 1999. In Alabama, the rate of drug overdose deaths increased by 11.1% between 2016 and 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The State of Alabama had the highest prescribing rate in the country at 107.2 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. The rate was two times higher than the average U.S. rate.
Among the economic damages resulting from the opioid epidemic are the costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; costs for providing counseling and rehabilitation services; costs for treating infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; public safety and law enforcement expenses; and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.
The seven-week trial began May 28, and originally named Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Purdue settled for $270 million in March. Teva settled days before the trial began for $85 million.
Approximately 2,500 other lawsuits have been filed nationwide against opioid manufacturers and distributors with 2,000 consolidated as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) located in Cleveland, Ohio. Cases involved in the MDL are slated to begin going to trial in October.