SUSANNAH LUTHI / August 26, 2019
An Oklahoma state judge on Monday ruled that Johnson & Johnson fed the state’s opioid addiction crisis with aggressive marketing and sales, ordering the company to pay $572 million.
The manufacturers’ “false, misleading and dangerous marketing campaigns have caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction overdose deaths and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said in his ruling.
The judge’s ruling follows seven weeks of arguments in a closely watched case that was the first of hundreds of opioid lawsuits to go to trial.
The $572 million remedy would go toward treatment and prevention programs, but Johnson & Johnson said it and its subsidiaries would appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“Janssen did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and neither the facts nor the law support this outcome,” the company’s general counsel Michael Ullmann said in a statement. “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.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued Johnson & Johnson under the state’s public nuisance laws, estimating that a plan to reverse the crisis over the next 30 years would cost $12.6 billion over 20 years or more than $17 billion over 30 years. The manufacturers disputed those estimates.