An Oklahoma judge has ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for its role in the state’s opioid crisis.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman held the giant health care company accountable. In his ruling, Balkman said the opioid crisis has “ravaged” the state of Oklahoma.
The defendants, according to the Judge, “engaged in false and misleading marketing of both their drugs and opioids generally, and the law makes clear that such conduct is more than enough to serve as the act or omission necessary to establish the first element of Oklahoma’s public nuisance law.”
Following the ruling, Johnson & Johnson announced that it plans to appeal the “flawed” judgment.
On CNN’s Chris Cuomo show, Oklahoma Attorney General Michael Hunter said, “we proved to the judge that Johnson and Johnson was the cause of the epidemic. They misrepresented their product, they misrepresented the industry’s products and they mis-marketed their products.
Oklahoma had already reached out of court settlements with Teva Pharmaceuticals ($85 million) and Purdue Pharmaceuticals ($270 million), which combined with Monday’s judgement against Johnson and Johnson means about $1 billion in settlement revenue for the state, if Johnson and Johnson’s appeal is unsuccessful.
“Janssen (the Johnson and Johnson subsidiary) did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” Michael Ullmann, executive vice president and general counsel for Johnson & Johnson, said in a written statement on Monday.
“We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. We are working with partners to find ways to help those in need,” he said. “This judgment is a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states.”
Oklahoma, which was the first state to bring a case to trial, is one of many states suing opioid drug makers. A federal trial is slated for this fall in which nearly 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands have been rolled into one, accusing opioid makers of causing the epidemic.
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