Johnson & Johnson fought hard against Oklahoma's claims the company played a "kingpin" role in the state’s opioid epidemic, but its lawyers fell short in those efforts after a six-week trial. On Monday, Judge Thad Balkman ruled that J&J created a public nuisance and ordered the company to pay $572 million as part of an opioid abatement plan.
Oklahoma faces a “temporary public nuisance that can be abated,” Judge Balkman said as he read his decision on Monday. The $572 million verdict is the amount Balkman said he’s constrained to order based on the law and the evidence presented at trial.
Previously, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Terri White testified the state’s opioid crisis will cost more than $17 billion to clean up. Prosecutors asked the judge to order J&J to pay that amount. If further funding is needed, Balkman said it'll be up to lawmakers to create abatement programs.
A J&J representative said the company plans to appeal the decision.
While the judge’s decision marked a loss for J&J, the company’s investors celebrated the news, as analysts saw a potential for a much larger verdict. Before the Monday decision, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris said his team expected a verdict of more than $2 billion. J&J shares jumped 4% after the market closed on Monday.
Still, the case isn’t nearly as important as the multidistrict litigation in Cleveland, Ohio, Maris said on CNBC following the Monday decision. J&J and other defendants face thousands of lawsuits there in litigation that could generate a settlement in the tens of billions of dollars, Maris said.
J&J's verdict comes in much higher than the settlements inked by Purdue and Teva before the Oklahoma trial of $270 million and $85 million, respectively.