In July, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office made their closing statements in an opioid trial. Since then, everyone has been watching and waiting for the judge to make his final decision in the case. He reached a verdict on Monday, August 26, 2019. Judge Thad Balkman ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay the state $572 million to address the effects of the Oklahoma opioid epidemic; the money is to be used for treatment plans, doctor and patient education programs, tracking systems for pharmacists to monitor opioid prescriptions, and grief support groups. Will this trial outcome affect similar lawsuits in Washington and around the country?
First Case to Reach Trial
The state of Oklahoma originally had asked for Johnson & Johnson to pay $17.5 billion as part of a 30-year-plan to address the opioid crisis, but Judge Balkman said in his ruling that, “The state did not present sufficient evidence of the amount of time and costs necessary beyond year one to abate the crisis.” It is unclear whether the state can pursue more money if the opioid crisis persists.
Forty-eight states and thousands of local governments, including the state of Washington and the city of Seattle, have also filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, but the Johnson & Johnson case in Oklahoma was the first to reach the trial stage. Two other defendants in the Oklahoma case, Purdue Pharma and Teva, both settled for millions before trial. Johnson & Johnson plan to appeal the case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said that the opioid crisis in Oklahoma has killed over 4,600 people since 2007 and he called Johnson & Johnson a drug “kingpin” that was motivated by one thing: greed. He also accused Johnson & Johnson of creating a marketing campaign that sent a message to doctors and pharmacists that pain was being undertreated and opioids were at low-risk of being abused. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have died from opioid overdoses in the last decade.
Washington Opioid Statistics
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, over 2 billion opioid pills were prescribed in Washington between 2006 and 2012. In King County alone, that accounts for 34.5 pills per person. Often prescription opioids are prescribed for people dealing with chronic pain, but despite what manufacturers say, opioids seem to be highly addictive and people quickly turn to other methods--like heroin--to fuel their addiction once their opioid options have run out. The Washington Department of Health tracks drug statistics and states that in 2018, there were 710 opioid overdose deaths.
Drug Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
If you or a loved one are facing charges of heroin or opioid possession, you need a hard-working attorney to defend you. The Law Offices of Steve Karimi offer free consultations in any case; call them at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form today.