Attorney: Judge's Findings On State Opioid Trial Will Have 'Far-Reaching Implications Across The Country'
OKLAHOMA CITY - After a seven-week trial and more than a month of deliberations, Monday a Cleveland County judge is expected to deliver his findings in the state's historic opioid lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.
Oklahoma City trial attorney Ed Blau said people across the country will be watching for Judge Thad Balkman’s decision.
“The judge’s decision will have far-reaching implications all over the country,” Blau said. “You’ve got other drug manufacturers, you’re going to see their stock holders, you’re going to see individual states, municipalities. There’s going to be a lot of interest into what the judge has to say tomorrow.”
The State of Oklahoma is asking for $17.5 billion. They said that’s how much it will cost to execute a 30-year plan to fix the mess, they said, Johnson & Johnson caused. Their plan designates money for addiction treatment, education of the public and medical community, and overdose prevention programs.
The state said 6,100 Oklahomans died from prescription-drug overdoses between 2000 and 2017.
Despite the attention and initial precedent Balkman’s ruling will set, Blau said regardless of the outcome, the losing party will almost certainly appeal the decision. It’s the first time a state has attempted to use a public nuisance law to fight opioid manufactures.
“The theory on which the state prosecuted its case is a little bit of a novel one,” Blau said. “It’s not one that had been done in the past.”
He said he expects the appeal process to bypass the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals and go straight to the State Supreme Court. Blau said no one knows just how long it would take the high court to decide the landmark case. It could more than a year, according to Blau.
Monday’s findings will come from a single judge, rather than a jury. Blau said that circumstance alone could be grounds for an appeal.
“That’s going to be an issue on appeal,” he said. “Whether it was proper for this to be in front of a judge only and not in front of a jury. There’s going to be a lot of issues to get through both in this particular case and on appeal.”
Balkman’s findings are expected around 3 p.m. Monday, August 26. News 9 will have the decision and team coverage breaking down the findings on air and on the News9 app.