Johnson & Johnson Appeals Oklahoma Judge’s $572 Million Order Against Them

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson is appealing an Oklahoma judge’s $572 million order against the company and its subsidiaries for helping fuel the state’s opioid crisis.

The
company filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday,
arguing the ruling was an “unprecedented interpretation of Oklahoma
public nuisance law.”

The judge’s decision that the marketing and
sale of a lawful product can constitute a public nuisance could have
grave implications for all businesses that operate in the state, the
company warned.

“That novel ruling has immense public-policy
implications, undermining product-liability law rules, which have always
governed disputes over the marketing and sales of goods, and
threatening wide-ranging liability for companies that do business in
Oklahoma,” attorneys wrote in the appeal.

In his ruling last
month, Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ordered the company
to pay $572 million to help address the damage the opioid crisis has
caused in the state. Attorneys for the company have said that figure was
grossly inflated.

The state had presented the judge with a plan
to abate the crisis that would have cost between $12.6 billion for 20
years to $17.5 billion over 30 years.

A spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said their office is reviewing the appeal.

Oklahoma’s
case was closely watched because it was the first among more than 1,500
similar lawsuits against drugmakers and others involved in the sale of
opioids filed by state, local and tribal governments to proceed to
trial.

Before the trial began, Oklahoma reached settlements
totaling $355 million from two other groups of defendant drugmakers,
including Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma and Israeli-owned Teva
Pharmaceuticals.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection earlier
this month, the first step in a plan it says would provide $10 billion
to $12 billion to help reimburse state and local governments for the
costs associated with cleaning up the damage from the opioid crisis.
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