October 02, 2019

Johnson & Johnson to pay $20.4 million to settle claims against the company on opioid suits in Ohio

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $20.4 million to settle claims by two Ohio counties, to avoid an upcoming federal trial for its role in the opioid epidemic in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 400,000 overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2017.

Johnson & Johnson became the fifth drugmaker to avoid the first federal trial that attempts to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for the drug scourge. The case is considered to be a forerunner for more than 2,600 lawsuits by state and local governments that are pending nationally.

The company — which made a fentanyl patch and two versions of an opioid tablet — did not admit wrongdoing. It said in a statement that it was settling “to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis.”

The Johnson & Johnson agreement would settle two federal lawsuits, which are scheduled to go to trial jointly against other drug industry defendants on Oct. 21. Referred to as a bellwether, it is intended as a litmus test for some 2,600 cases filed by cities, counties and tribes nationwide, that have been consolidated in federal court under Judge Dan A. Polster in Cleveland. Johnson & Johnson has agreed to give a combined $10 million to the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit plus $5 million to cover the plaintiffs’ legal fees and expenses and $5.4 million in charitable contributions to opioid-related nonprofit programs in those counties.

The drug distributors and retail pharmacy chains, however, are hesitant to settle. They are continuing to press their efforts to remove Judge Polster from the case, claiming that he has shown a bias against them by openly encouraging settlement talks.

As the sprawling federal opioid litigation has unfolded over 20 months, the drug manufacturers have been reported to be more inclined to settlement negotiations than the other groups of defendants. When the state of Oklahoma sued drug manufacturers for its opioid crisis, Johnson & Johnson refused to settle. Instead, it faced the state during a nearly two-month trial. In August, the Oklahoma judge who presided over the trial ordered the company to pay $572 million — a judgment that Johnson & Johnson is still appealing.

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