Oklahoma court overturns $465 mln opioid judgment against J&J

Oklahoma court overturns $465 mln opioid judgment against J&J

Nov 9 (Reuters) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) in a lawsuit by the state alleging the drugmaker fueled the opioid epidemic by way of the misleading advertising of painkillers.

The choice marked the newest setback for states and native governments pursuing lawsuits to carry pharmaceutical corporations liable for a drug abuse disaster the U.S. authorities says led to just about 500,000 opioid overdose deaths over 20 years.

The court ruled that the state’s public nuisance regulation doesn’t lengthen to the manufacturing, advertising and gross sales of prescription opioids and {that a} trial decide went too far in holding the corporate liable beneath it.

“However grave the problem of opioid addition is in Oklahoma, public nuisance law does not provide a remedy for this harm,” Justice James Winchester wrote.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J in a press release mentioned it sympathized with these affected by the epidemic however that the court “appropriately and categorically rejected the misguided and unprecedented expansion of the public nuisance law.”

Oklahoma Lawyer Normal John O’Connor mentioned in a press release that he was upset, and vowed to proceed pursuing a associated case against main drug distributors. His workplace on attraction had sought $9.3 billion from J&J to fund remedy and different packages to deal with the epidemic.

The Oklahoma lawsuit was the primary of the greater than 3,300 lawsuits over the opioid disaster against pharmaceutical producers, drug distributors and pharmacies to go to trial.

The trial predated an settlement this 12 months by J&J and the three largest U.S. drug distributors – McKesson Corp (MCK.N), Cardinal Well being Inc (CAH.N) and AmerisourceBergen – to pay as much as $26 billion to settle hundreds of opioid-related circumstances against them. learn extra

PUBLIC NUISANCE LAWS

Tuesday’s choice got here days after an identical trial in California pitting a number of giant counties against J&J and three different drugmakers resulted in a tentative ruling within the corporations’ favor. learn extra

Cleveland County District Choose Thad Balkman dominated in August 2019 that J&J, whereas promoting the painkillers Duragesic and Nucynta, for years engaged in deceptive advertising about the advantages and dangers of addictive opioids, inflicting a public nuisance.

Earlier than trial, the state resolved associated claims against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for $270 million and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) for $85 million.

J&J had argued there was scientific help for the advertising claims and mentioned Duragesic and Nucynta, which it now not promotes, accounted for a tiny fraction of the opioids bought in Oklahoma.

It additionally argued the state’s public nuisance regulation mustn’t apply.

In Tuesday’s ruling, Winchester agreed the regulation solely utilized to discrete, localized issues involving felony or property-based conflicts, not coverage issues.

“The district court’s expansion of public nuisance law allows courts to manage public policy matters that should be dealt with by the legislative and executive branches,” Winchester wrote.

Paul Geller, a plaintiffs’ lawyer on the regulation agency Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd who helped draft the $26 billion nationwide settlement proposal, mentioned the Oklahoma ruling might result in elevated participation within the settlement.

“Perhaps the realization that, despite the gravity of the epidemic, trials are inherently risky and appellate courts are largely unpredictable will ultimately help increase participation,” he mentioned.

Eight states have declined to sign-onto the take care of J&J, which agreed to pay as much as $5 billion. Native governments in states that did be a part of the have till January to sign-on. The final word payout is contingent on participation. learn extra

The Oklahoma ruling, coupled with the California choice, might immediate states and localities who haven’t backed the proposed nationwide settlement to re-think their positions, mentioned Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, a College of Georgia regulation professor.

“To the extent folks are on the fence about going into that settlement, this definitely changes the risk profile,” Burch mentioned.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston,
Enhancing by Noeleen Walder, Bernadette Baum, Aurora Ellis and Jonathan Oatis

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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