Is The $465 Million Johnson & Johnson Settlement OK For Oklahoma?


In 2019, a District judge in Oklahoma ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $465 million to address the costs associated with the state’s opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson appealed the decision, and justices in that state’s Supreme Court are currently reviewing the lower court decision. According to The Oklahoman, this past October, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Association warned justices about the long-term economic impact “of businesses fleeing the State for fear of encountering the public-nuisance monster that the trial court unleashed” if the verdict is upheld.

But in a legal filing prepared jointly by the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, these entities are asking the state’s Supreme Court to ignore the “hollow” claim that upholding the verdict will drive businesses out of the state.

“This scare tactic is nonsense,” the legal filing said, which added, “For decades, billions of dollars needed to support Oklahoma’s economy have been used instead to try and clean up the destruction J&J has caused.”

The filing further disputed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Tort Reform Association’s warning: “Oklahoma’s public nuisance laws are not bad for Oklahoma’s economy. Forcing innocent, hard-working Oklahomans to pay for a public health crisis they didn’t create is bad for Oklahoma’s economy.”

After the 2019 $465 verdict, Johnson & Johnson appealed, contending that the judge misapplied the state’s public nuisance law in reaching that verdict “with grave implications for all businesses operating in the state.” 

If Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Tort Reform Association’s warning had any merit, argue OU, OSU, and the Regents, the state of Oklahoma would have witnessed some businesses already fleeing the state. 

However, not one business has left the state “out of fear Oklahoma courts have gone rogue” since the $465 million verdict was announced, said representatives from OU, OSU and Regents. 

Furthermore, unlike other high profile multi-million settlements , “a duly elected” judge decided the case, “not a runaway jury,” the representatives noted. 

Earlier this month, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter, requested that Oklahoma’s state Supreme Court increase the amount Johnson & Johnson should pay to resolve the state’s opioid crisis. The amount Hunter requested: $9.3 billion. Hunter argued that $465 million would abate the costs of the opioid crisis for only one year. 

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