Oklahoma judge, not jury, to decide case against drugmakers

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma judge has ruled that he, not a jury, will decide the state’s case against several drug manufacturers for their alleged role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.

The attorney general’s office says Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman made the decision at Thursday’s hearing that a jury won’t hear the case. At least one of the defendants, Johnson & Johnson, had sought a jury trial.

Attorney general spokesman Alex Gerszewski says Balkman also decided not to move the trial to a larger courtroom at the University of Oklahoma. The trial is scheduled to begin May 28.

“We are pleased with today’s developments as we continue to look forward to our trial date where we will show how these companies deceived doctors and Oklahomans, leading to the current epidemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Beginning on May 28, we will show how Johnson & Johnson and Teva made billions of dollars on addiction. The companies knew what they were doing when they hired third parties and key opinion leaders to spread pseudoscience and misinformation about their drugs. They put the corporate bottom line over the health and well being of the thousands of individuals who have become addicted or who have died and we are going to make them answer for that.”

Oklahoma settled with Purdue Pharma for $270 million in March in the first such agreement following a wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against the company that had threatened to push it into bankruptcy.

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