State to appeal Oklahoma judge’s order to reduce Johnson & Johnson opioid settlement

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced that the state intends to appeal Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s final order issued last Friday in the trial against Johnson & Johnson that lowered their settlement amount.

“Judge Balkman’s conduct of both pre-trial and trial proceedings was informed and balanced,” Attorney General Hunter said. “His final order was correct and evidence-based as to causation and Johnson & Johnson’s culpability. However, we respectfully disagree with his order where it says Johnson & Johnson must only fund one year of cleaning up the public nuisance he found Johnson & Johnson created, after the company deceived and bombarded our doctors and Oklahomans with lies, leading to the deadliest manmade public health crisis in our nation’s history. This limitation directly opposes evidence presented during trial and the state’s public nuisance law, which requires full remediation of the problem. It is crystal clear under Oklahoma law that once a company is found liable for causing a public nuisance, it must pay what it takes to clean it up until the nuisance is gone. During the trial, the state’s expert witnesses repeatedly testified that it could take up to 30 years or more to take our state back to where we were before the crisis began. Our abatement plan was put together by some of the foremost experts in the state and nation on what it will take to overcome this tragedy that continues to grip our state. All of these experts agree that there are dire consequences if we do not end the crisis in its entirety, and that it will get much worse and more Oklahomans will die. Johnson & Johnson had no abatement expert of its own and failed to present a competing abatement plan.”

According to the AG’s office, the state agrees with Judge Balkman’s final order on a multitude of fronts, but attorneys for the state take issue with the part of the court’s ruling that only requires Johnson & Johnson to pay for one year of the state’s abatement plan, which was carefully designed by state officials.

District Judge Thad Balkman on Friday issued the order directing the company to pay the state $465 million, acknowledging that he miscalculated in his original award how much it would cost to develop a program for treating babies born addicted to opioids.

The cost should have been $107,000, not $107 million.

The judge declined a request by the defendants to further reduce the amount to take into account pre-trial settlements totaling $355 million the state reached with Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma and Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson said the company plans to appeal as well.

The state has until Dec. 16 to file its appeal.

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