Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals fueled the opioid crisis in Oklahoma and must pay $572 million, an Oklahoma judge ruled in the first trial holding drug makers accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages caused by their opioids.
District Judge Thad 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.”
Johnson & Johnson said it plans to appeal the decision, which rang in much lower than the $17 billion the state sought for a three-decade “abatement plan,” which includes public education campaigns, addiction treatment and medical training, among other measures. Judge Balkman said the $572 million would fund the plan’s immediate needs.
Evercore ISI analyst Elizabeth Anderson told CNBC that investors were expecting J&J to be hit with a judgment between $500 million and $5 billion.
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.
Legal analysts were eyeing the outcome of Oklahoma’s trial closely for some indication of how plaintiffs in another 1,900 similar lawsuits filed by states and local governments might fare. Those cases were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) under a federal judge in the Northern District of Ohio.
Beasley Allen has an Opioid Litigation Team, which includes these lawyers: Rhon Jones, Parker Miller, Ryan Kral, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Jeff Price. This team represents the State of Alabama, the State of Georgia, and numerous local governments, as well as other entities in the MDL.