For the first time, a pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, has been ordered to pay a substantial sum for their role in the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.
While the opioid epidemic is no doubt a nationwide crisis, Oklahoma has been particularly devastated by the highly addictive pain killer. There have reportedly been over 6,000 deaths tied to opioid abuse in Oklahoma over the last two decades.
The attorney general in Oklahoma claimed that Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance that led to the reported deaths.
Johnson & Johnson attorneys plan to appeal the court’s decision under the grounds that the state “misinterpreted the public nuisance law” since it previously only applied to property or public spaces.
However, District court Judge Thad Balkman stated, “The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma, it must be abated immediately. For this reason, I am entering an abatement plan that consists of costs totaling $572,102,028 to immediately remediate the nuisance.”
While there have been numerous lawsuits against Big Pharma by numerous state’s attorneys, this is the first trial to award monetary compensation to the state. This is good news to the other state’s attorneys with cases prepared to go to court over the coming weeks and months and Judge Balkman’s decision sets a precedent that other judges can now follow.
Now we have to wait to see how other judges rule in similar cases, as well as the results of Johnson & Johnson’s appeal, to see how this may trend going forward.