OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Big news on the state’s ongoing battle with opioid manufacturers, as the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, on Tuesday, overturned a decision that will likely cost the state over $400 million.
Oklahoma settled with multiple companies prior to the trial, but back in 2019, a Cleveland County judge handed down a ruling saying that the way Johnson & Johnson marketed and sold their opioid-based pain killers created a public nuisance due to their addictive nature.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that the actions of the opioid manufacturers did not create a public nuisance,” said Jari Askins.
The court spokesperson is referring to a 5-1 decision handed down by Oklahoma’s highest court, saying in part, “The district court erred in extending the public nuisance statute to the manufacturing, marketing and selling of prescription opioids.”
Former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter led the charge on this case. But the current Attorney General John O’Connor issued a statement Tuesday, saying in part, “The Judgment holding Johnson & Johnson accountable for their deceptive actions was a huge victory for Oklahoma citizens and their families who have been ravaged by opioids. I am disappointed in the decision.”
Johnson & Johnson issued the following satement:
“We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. The company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of these important prescription pain medications were appropriate and responsible. Today the Oklahoma State Supreme Court appropriately and categorically rejected the misguided and unprecedented expansion of the public nuisance law as a means to regulate the manufacture, marketing and sale of products, including the company’s prescription opioid medications.”JOHNSON & JOHNSON
“Oklahoma hasn’t gone that far in the past and was unwilling to go that far in this case,” said Mark Hammons. “The Oklahoma City attorney is familiar with the opioid cases. He says nuisance cases typically don’t look like the Oklahoma opioid case. So, if you have a polluted stream and it damages the neighboring land or if you got a chemical plant and the fumes go over to neighborhood, those are common nuisance that’s not at all like this.”
The decision was overturned, experts say negating the $465 million dollar settlement. As for what’s next, officials say the case against Johnson & Johnson looks to be over.
“Unless there is an action brought for a rehearing and the Supreme Court finds a reason for a rehearing,” said Askins.
But O’Connor issued a statement, saying, “Our staff will be exploring options. We are still pursuing our other pending claims against opioid distributors who have flooded our communities with these highly addictive drugs for decades. Oklahomans deserve nothing less.”
So did the Attorney General’s Office make a misstep in the way they handled this case?
“The opioid epidemic has cost the State and its taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. I think it’s to be commended that the AG was looking for a way to secure relief for the citizens and taxpayers who suffered because of, at the least, immoral conduct,” said Hammons
We called OSU Tulsa to check on the new opioid center set up there with funds the State had gotten from drug companies. They say their funding is secure because it came from the settlement Oklahoma made with Purdue Pharma, not from the Johnson & Johnson verdict.