Johnson & Johnson’s Request to Throw Out Opioid Lawsuit Denied
The giant pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson will have to answer an Oklahoma lawsuit claiming that they were a main driver behind the US’s current opioid epidemic a judge has decided. The company had claimed that there was insufficient evidence for the trial to proceed, but that claim has been dismissed.
On July 6, Judge Thad Balkman examined the evidence brought by the attorney general of Oklahoma that marketing strategies adopted by Johnson & Johnson were a significant cause of the over-prescription of opioid based painkillers which has led to a stark increase in the number of people dying from opioid related overdoses. Despite claims by Johnson & Johnson that there is insufficient evidence to link them directly to the rise in opioid related fatalities, Judge Balkman decided that the company does indeed have a case to answer.
Johnson & Johnson’s Lawyers Argued That They Cannot be Held Responsible For The Opioid Epidemic
The basis of Johnson & Johnson’s argument was that Oklahoma was suing the company under a public nuisance statute, and that such a motion was usually brought against companies with the intention of solving property disputes. Lawyers for the company also argued that should this case be allowed to progress it would lay the foundation for similar lawsuits to be drawn up. For example, McDonald’s could be sued for their contribution to the ‘obesity crisis’, and oil companies could be sued for their contribution towards climate change. They also argued the company’s right to promote opioids was protected by the first amendment.
The lawyer representing the state, Brad Beckworth, was visibly angry as he reacted in court. “That may be the most recalcitrant, strident and offensive argument I’ve ever heard. I have never seen conduct as reprehensible and as offensive as I have seen at the hands of Johnson & Johnson,” he said.
Johnson & Johnson Compared Opioid Misuse to Ice Cream Sales
Johnson & Johnson even challenged their accusers by saying that while ice cream sales and crime went up in the summer “that does not mean that ice cream causes homicides”. Beckworth called this parallel ‘offensive’.
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