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State appeals opioid verdict claiming $465 million award is not enough

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Contending that a $465 million verdict awarded against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson will be insufficient to fully abate the state's opioid epidemic, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court on Monday seeking authority to come back and ask for more money later.

Attorneys for the state also filed documents in Cleveland County District Court asking a judge to order Johnson & Johnson to pay $468,920 to cover the state's out-of-pocket litigation expenses for the trial, which lasted more than six weeks last summer.

"Over the last two decades, the Johnson & Johnson Defendants engaged in a marketing campaign that deceived, misled, and ultimately convinced doctors and patients that opioid narcotics were non-addictive and safe for long-term, everyday use," attorneys for the state said Monday in state Supreme Court filings. "The result of J&J's campaign was the single worst man-made, public-health crisis this State has ever seen."

In District Judge Thad Balkman's final order, he required Johnson & Johnson to pay only the amount that witnesses for the state testified would be needed to fund the first year of abatement efforts, attorneys for the state noted in their appeal.

They complained that amount would be inadequate because those same witnesses testified it would take 20 or more years to fully abate the crisis. The state had asked for an award of $17 billion.

"The State, therefore, lodges this appeal to ensure the People of Oklahoma receive the abatement remedy the law and the evidence demand — one that actually and fully abates the public nuisance the Johnson & Johnson Defendants caused," attorneys for the state said.

Judge Balkman stated in his order that "though several of the State's witnesses testified that the plan will take at least 20 years to work, the State did not present sufficient evidence of the amount of time and costs necessary, beyond Year One, to abate the Opioid Crisis."

Johnson & Johnson attorneys previously filed their own state Supreme Court appeal in the case, arguing that the state's public nuisance law had been wrongly applied to this case and that the $465 million verdict should be overturned.

"This case's significance extends beyond opioid litigation," Johnson & Johnson attorneys said in their appeal. "The judgment below rests on an unprecedented interpretation of Oklahoma public nuisance law, with grave implications for all businesses operating in the state. Contrary to a century of Oklahoma case law tying public nuisance liability to property use and to historically recognized nuisances per se, the district court ruled that the marketing and sale of lawful goods can constitute a public nuisance so long as a fact finder concludes it affects a large number of Oklahomans."

Johnson & Johnson attorneys also argued that the $465 million verdict against their company should have been reduced by the $355 million in settlement payments the state negotiated before the trial with groups of pharmaceutical companies headed by Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.

More than 30 other grounds for appeal were cited by Johnson & Johnson, including claims that the company's rights to free speech and due process were violated.

Related Photos
Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks to his attorneys before the start of the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nationÕs opioid crisis.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks to his attorneys before the start of the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c378be50da9a8caf097045528df179ed.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks to his attorneys before the start of the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nationÕs opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]" title="Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks to his attorneys before the start of the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nationÕs opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks to his attorneys before the start of the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nationÕs opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-763ca45e66b7e511732d0a0b1f20a33f.jpg" alt="Photo - Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bb6502644e3e4983b5c3cadf823afacf.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter takes notes during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Attorney General Mike Hunter takes notes during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Attorney General Mike Hunter takes notes during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8372484f33e47e773a79ce9f8f353d91.jpg" alt="Photo - State's attorney Brad Beckworth speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="State's attorney Brad Beckworth speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>State's attorney Brad Beckworth speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1808c01ea6778f7b264aefdfd011798a.jpg" alt="Photo - Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e31345179e1ea51fb54fe14374120cda.jpg" alt="Photo - Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Judge Thad Balkman listens to statements from the defense during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-717c874228d3462554f610ba8d8e5476.jpg" alt="Photo - Defense attorney Steven Brody speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Defense attorney Steven Brody speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Defense attorney Steven Brody speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-de83bc1a01c4fc77bf2eaeedcb0b8e34.jpg" alt="Photo - Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Defense attorney Sabrina Strong speaks to the court during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-54093f33b47e799f23fc09f3a9cdaf1f.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-66449c02b9ce74bb9fefe13500b11b45.jpg" alt="Photo - State's attorney Michael Burrage speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="State's attorney Michael Burrage speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>State's attorney Michael Burrage speaks during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cff7e12aae290651c16ce9a91ab3b0fa.jpg" alt="Photo - Defense attorney Larry Ottaway listens to statements during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Defense attorney Larry Ottaway listens to statements during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Defense attorney Larry Ottaway listens to statements during the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-90e9aec8f1dee5d793aeedc63a9fc4d7.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter stands outside Judge Thad Balkman's courtroom after the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Attorney General Mike Hunter stands outside Judge Thad Balkman's courtroom after the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Attorney General Mike Hunter stands outside Judge Thad Balkman's courtroom after the hearing to settle the Journal Entry of Judgment for opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Judge Balkman ruled last Aug. in favor of the State of Oklahoma, for Johnson and Johnson pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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