Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $572 million for its role in Oklahoma's opioid crisis

An Oklahoma judge ruled on Monday that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for its role in the state's opioid crisis. "The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma and must be abated immediately," Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said as he read his decision.

An Oklahoma judge ruled on Monday that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for its role in the state's opioid crisis. "The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma and must be abated immediately," Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said as he read his decision. "As a matter of law, I find that defendants' actions caused harm, and those harms are the kinds recognized by [state law] because those actions annoyed, injured or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans," he wrote in his decision. More than 40 states are set to pursue similar claims against the pharmaceutical industry, so Balkman's ruling in the first state case to go to trial could affect both sides' strategies going forward. Plaintiffs' attorneys nationwide also praised the ruling, saying they hoped it could serve as a model for a federal lawsuit filed by almost 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes, and others that is set to begin in Cleveland this fall. While state attorneys had asked for $17.5 billion over 3 decades for treatment, emergency care, law enforcement, social services, and other addiction-related needs, Balkman said it would cost $572 million to address the epidemic in the first year based on the state's plan. There was not "sufficient evidence" of the time and money required to respond after that, the judge said. Soon after the ruling was issued, J&J said it would appeal the decision, with a company attorney saying that "We have sympathy for those who suffer from opioid use disorder. But Johnson & Johnson did not cause the opioid abuse crisis here in Oklahoma or anywhere in this country."