Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, daily headlines rotated around the role of some of the largest drug manufacturers in fueling the opioid crisis in the country. Opioid lawsuits piled up against some of the leading drugmakers and distributors. The pandemic delayed the legal fights, but the reprieve seems to be over. A major trial in an opioid lawsuit is set to kick off in California.
The lawsuit accuses four drugmakers of fueling the deadly opioid epidemic in the state by deceptively marketing their opioid painkillers without mentioning their addictive risks. The plaintiffs in the case are several California counties.
The counties accuse Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan, and Endo International Plc. of fueling an opioid crisis that has caused approximately 500,000 opioid overdose deaths over the last two decades.
The populous Los Angeles, Santa Clara, and Orange counties, alongside the city of Oakland, say that should a judge following the non-jury, online trial find the drug manufacturers liable, they will have to pay at least $50 billion to cover the cost of managing the public nuisance they created in the region, plus other penalties.
This is the second major opioid lawsuit to go to trial after the state of Oklahoma successfully sued Johnson & Johnson in 2019. The court awarded the state a whopping $572 million in damages, but a judge later lowered the compensation to $465 million.
Fighting a Deadly Legacy
The plaintiff’s attorney told Orange County Superior Court Judge that the opioid case was about fighting the companies’ “lethal legacy” of promoting their opioid painkillers to manage chronic pain, which has resulted in a massive number of the highly addictive pain pills flooding the entire state and country.
The attorneys argue that they have concrete evidence showing each of the companies knew what would happen but chose to ignore the facts. They knew that their pain pills would cause a massive addiction problem, overdose, and deaths.
However, defense lawyers countered the statement arguing that the drugs manufactured and supplied by these companies were only a small part of the larger opioid market.
They further stated that doctors were clearly warned of the risks and that the counties had no proof that their clients’ drugs fueled the health crisis.
Teva’s lawyer said no single medical doctor was misled, while J&J’s attorney argued that the company’s opioid painkillers were rarely abused and didn’t cause any public nuisance. Johnson & Jonson has since stopped manufacturing and marketing opioid painkillers.
Endo’s lawyers argued that the counties were only litigating over a handful of “harmless statements” the Food and Drug Administration approved. The attorneys believe that the game is over, and the outcome of the lawsuit will only disappoint the counties.
This Isn’t the Only Opioid Lawsuit
Apparently, there are close to 3,300 similar opioid cases pending nationally over the opioid epidemic. Oklahoma’s case mentioned above remains the only opioid case to go to trial. The other cases are set to go to trial in the coming months, creating more pressure for the defendants to reach reasonable settlements with the plaintiffs.
The country’s three largest drug distributors- AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, and McKesson- together with Johnson & Johnson, have proposed to pay a combined $26 billion to resolve all opioid cases filed against them. However, the proposed settlement deal has not been finalized yet.
With several opioid lawsuits starting to enter the trial stage, this is the perfect time to file your case if you have not done so. The opioid epidemic has affected millions of Americans, and all parties that fueled the crisis must be fully responsible for their actions.
Talk to an experienced opioid attorney today to find out if you have a valid claim.