Johnson & Johnson Settles Bellwether Opioid Cases

By: - October 2, 2019 12:00 am

Brad Beckworth, a lawyer representing the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, delivers an opening statement at the opioid trial in Norman, Oklahoma. The proceedings were the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nation’s opioid crisis. Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP

Admitting no guilt, consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than million to avoid a trial in cases with two Ohio counties in federal opioid litigation slated for Oct. 21.

The agreement settles all of Cuyahoga and Summit counties’ claims against Johnson & Johnson and removes the company and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit from the first case scheduled to go to trial in a consolidation of more than 2,000 federal lawsuits filed by cities, counties, tribal governments, insurance companies and medical groups. The plaintiffs sued to hold drug companies responsible for causing the nation’s opioid crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 400,000 Americans died of overdoses involving opioids between 1999 and 2017.

The cases filed by the two hard-hit Ohio counties are considered bellwethers for all other federal cases, as well as lawsuits filed in state courts by nearly all state attorneys general.

Earlier this year, three other defendants settled their lawsuits with Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

Drugmaker Mallinckrodt announced a million settlement with the counties Sept. 30, and Endo International completed a million settlement earlier in the month. Allergan reached a million settlement with the counties in August.

The remaining defendants in the federal trial include drug companies McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Walgreen Boots Alliance and Henry Schein.

OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which proposed a settlement that has not been accepted, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.