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12 Nov 2021

Meryl Kornfield & Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post (USA)

USA: Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns historic opioid ruling against Johnson & Johnson

"Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns historic opioid ruling against J&J", 9 Nov 2021

Oklahoma’s highest court reversed a historic ruling against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday, finding a judge incorrectly interpreted public nuisance laws in the nation’s first major trial over the opioid epidemic.

The 5-to-1 decision that overturned the $465 million verdict issued by Cleveland County District … in 2019 is a blow to the argument that companies that marketed, sold and distributed opioids created a public nuisance and should abate some of the damage drugs have caused in communities…A similar claim is being tested in courts by other communities nationwide that are suing companies, arguing they are in part responsible for the public health crisis that has killed more than 500,000 people in two decades.

Companies scored a win last week in California when a judge said he would rule against several large counties arguing public nuisance claims because they had not proved deceptive marketing increased medically unnecessary prescriptions……

Some local governments have made public nuisance claims against firms such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, arguing the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere has contributed to climate change…

Still, the opinions could sway plaintiffs determining how to argue their cases or communities considering joining the national settlement announced in July…Johnson & Johnson agreed to contribute up to $5 billion in a $26 billion deal with the top three distributors, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, to resolve thousands of opioid claims. At least eight states have rejected a deal with J&J.

Meanwhile, cases against pharmacies and others remain ongoing, including one trial in federal court in Cleveland last month.