By Sarah Adamo
An Oklahoma judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson on Aug. 26, ordering the corporation to pay $572 million for exacerbating the state’s opioid crisis, according to the BBC.
As it stands, the company must pay to help rectify the state’s predicament. The BBC reported that the decision followed a seven-week non-jury trial, and hinged upon the business’s alleged deception in prescribing painkillers.
According to USA Today, the pharmaceutical corporation was accused of vehemently promoting the sale of opioids while placing emphasis on their performance and minimizing the risks of addiction. It was the first state opioid case to go to trial.
“‘The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to all of us,’” said Judge Thad Balkman from Cleveland County, Oklahoma, according to USA Today. “‘The defendants … misleading marketing and promotion of opioids … compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.’”
Countering claims that the firm magnified the issue, Johnson & Johnson lawyer Sabrina Strong said that the company has “sympathy for all who suffer from substance abuse.” However, she found Balkman’s decision to be “flawed,” believing that litigation was not a good solution, according to USA Today.
While the court’s decision stands today, Johnson & Johnson is considering an appeal that could delay an outcome until 2021. According to CNN, a written statement from the firm’s executive vice president and general counsel Michael Ullmann on Aug. 26 asserted that the judgement is “‘a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states.’”
In the company’s filing, the legislation was condemned as being founded on “radical theories” far removed from current Oklahoma case law, according to CNN. Through its written refutation, Johnson & Johnson also raised questions about the evidence used in court to bolster the allegations, and challenged the effectivity of demanding monetary compensation to remediate the opioid crisis.
According to the BBC, another argument from Johnson & Johnson is that its painkillers have comprised no more than 1 percent of the U.S. market since 2008.
CNN reported that the problems incurred from the proliferation of prescription opioids have been characterized by attorneys for the state to be altogether the most formidable nuisance in Oklahoma’s history.
Furthermore, as reported by Fox News, this case prompted 1,500 opioid lawsuits raised from state, local and tribal governments in Ohio, over which a federal judge presides for court dates in October.