Judge fines Johnson & Johnson $572 million in landmark case
An Oklahoma judge has fined Johnson & Johnson $572 million for fueling the opioid crisis in a landmark ruling that could open the doors for more lawsuits.
The AP’s Sean Murphy had the news:
An Oklahoma judge on Monday found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million, more than twice the amount another drug manufacturer agreed to pay in a settlement.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.
“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma,” Balkman said before announcing the judgment. “It must be abated immediately.”
An attorney for the companies said they plan to appeal the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Before Oklahoma’s trial began May 28, the state reached settlements with two other defendant groups — a $270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
CBS News quoted the judge:
In making his ruling, Judge Balkman said Johnson & Johnson bears responsibility for helping to fuel the state’s opioid epidemic by aggressively marketing painkillers. Judge Balkman took about a month to make this judgement after a seven-week trial.
“We showed how the company repeatedly ignored warnings by the federal governments and its own scientific advisers about the dangers of its drugs and the risks of marketing its products the way it did,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter during a press conference on Monday. “We have proven that Johnson & Johnson have built its billion dollar brand out of greed and on the backs of pain and suffering of innocent people.”
A brief statement by Johnson & Johnson said, “Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the opioid judgment in Oklahoma.”
Known for infant shampoo and other family-friendly products, Johnson & Johnson has a lesser-known pharmaceutical division, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Johnson & Johnson said its opioid products account for less than a percentage of the Oklahoma market, but the state of Oklahoma disputed that.
Reuters’ Heide Brandes and Nate Raymond reported the fine was much smaller than expected:
An Oklahoma judge on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) to pay $572.1 million to the state for its part in fueling an opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing addictive painkillers, a sum that was substantially less than investors had expected, driving up J&J’s shares.
The state’s attorney general had filed the lawsuit, seeking $17 billion to address the impact of the drug crisis on Oklahoma. It had been considered a bellwether for other litigation nationwide over the opioid epidemic.
“The expectation was this was going to be a $1.5 billion to $2 billion fine,” said Jared Holz, healthcare strategist for Jefferies & Co. “$572 million is a much lower number than had been feared.”
J&J said it would appeal the decision.