After a six-week trial, the Cleveland County District Court has decided in favor of the US state of Oklahoma regarding its lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, ordering the company to pay $572m (€515m) for an opioid abatement plan.
In a 42-page decision, Judge Thad Balkman ruled that J&J created a ‘temporary public nuisance’, accepting the state’s claims that the company played a ‘kingpin role’ in the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.
The company was found guilty of running a ‘false and dangerous’ sales campaign, which contributed to the US’ opioid epidemic, subsequently deemed a public health emergency, with more than 130 deaths daily across the country due to opioid-related drug overdoses.
Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, said the ruling confirmed his claim that “Johnson & Johnson maliciously and diabolically created the opioid epidemic in our state”, leading to 6,000 deaths in Oklahoma since 2000.
J&J responded to the decision by deeming it ‘flawed’ and announced plans to appeal, stating that it has “strong grounds” to do so.
Michael Ullmann, J&J’s EVP and general counsel, said that the company “did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome.”
Regarding the amount that the company is ordered to pay, Ullman commented: “The unprecedented award for the State’s ‘abatement plan’ has sweeping ramifications for many industries and bears no relation to the company’s medicines or conduct.”
Only a few days ago, Teva Pharmaceuticals, which was also included in Oklahoma’s lawsuit for the opioids crisis, reached a settlement with the state agreeing to pay $85m.