In a groundbreaking ruling, a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million over the ongoing national opioid crisis. Oklahoma Judge Thad Balkman, who handed down the verdict, declared that the crisis has “ravaged” his state. The decision will likely affect the outcomes of other similar cases pending throughout the country. Rueb Stoller Daniel is reviewing the decision and encourages victims of the opioid crisis to contact their office.
Lawyers representing Oklahoma had asked for over $17 billion for addiction treatment, drug courts, and other programs. The state argued that substantial damages were needed to treat people suffering from opioid addiction. Although the amount awarded was much less, the decision encourages plaintiffs who are pursuing similar lawsuits elsewhere. Approximately 2,000 other opioid cases are currently working their way through state and federal courts. Oklahoma previously settled lawsuits with two other pharmaceutical companies over their opioid drugs.
Johnson & Johnson “engaged in false and misleading marketing of both their drugs and opioids generally,” Judge Balkman concluded. More specifically, the court found, Johnson & Johnson downplayed the risks and overplayed the benefits of opioids. The decision to hold the company liable was based on the application of the state’s public nuisance law. Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, has promised to appeal the decision.
Opioids are extremely addictive painkillers. Prescription opioid medications include oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. Minor side effects associated with opioids include dizziness, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. But these drugs also cause much more serious and potentially life-threatening problems. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared in 2017 that opioids pose a public health emergency.
The deadliest side effects of opioid drugs include:
Addiction and withdrawal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 25% of opioid users become addicted. When someone suddenly stops using a drug to which they are addicted, they can experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Overdose. Large doses of opioids can slow one’s breathing, which can cause death. The HHS estimates that over 130 people die each day from opioid overdoses.
Breathing problems. Slower breathing can also cause extreme sedation, confusion, loss of consciousness, and more.
Heart problems. Breathing difficulties can lead to heart trouble as well, including arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Patients with diabetes or a history of heart attacks are at a higher risk.
Many opioid lawsuits maintain that pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson aggressively pushed opioids onto the market. Some plaintiffs have said that drug makers bribed doctors to unnecessarily prescribe opioids to patients.
Drug companies also allegedly knew of the addictive nature of opioids but failed to warn doctors and patients. Often, the ones who became addicted did so because they illegally used opioids. Pharmaceutical giants, more interested in making money, turned a blind eye to the black market their drugs created.
The state of Oklahoma may face an uphill battle in the appeals courts. Judges could be skeptical of the legal theory on which the decision was based. It also remains to be seen if a single company will be held responsible for the opioid crisis.
In any event, the verdict will shape arguments in future court cases. If you or a loved one have been harmed by opioids, please contact Rueb Stoller Daniel. You may be eligible for legal compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and more. Our law firm fights to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the suffering their drugs cause.
Experienced Drug Injury Attorneys You Can Count On
When drug makers disregard patient health, innocent people suffer. Johnson & Johnson and other drug companies owe patients a duty to responsibly market and sell their opioid drugs. Contact our office if you’ve been injured by these medications. We can schedule a consultation with you to explore your legal rights and help get you the compensation you deserve.