Johnson & Johnson is Ordered to Pay $572 Million in Opioid Trial

Joe: 106.7 WIZN. It’s Van Halen and “Unchained”. You heard The Who before that. I’m Joe Vega here with your new Wednesday “Rocking Ride Home.” Earlier, I was talking about this, a judgment in Oklahoma. Johnson & Johnson being ordered to pay $572 million due to the opioid crisis, and I thought I’d bring my friend Ben Barry on from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti to talk about it. And, of course, you can call Martin, Harding & Mazzotti at any time at 1-800-LAW-1010, or go online to Ben, how are you doing?

Ben: Joe, how are you?

Joe: I’m good. So I know you know the details of the story. Johnson & Johnson being ordered to pay $572 million due to the opioid crisis. My question is, is that even a lot of money to a company like Johnson & Johnson?

Ben: It hurts, I’m sure, but, you know, I think they did something like $81 billion in revenue last year so…

Joe: I was going to say.

Ben: …it’s a large sum of money. It certainly is headline-worthy. So yeah, I think Johnson & Johnson is going to feel it. I think looking forward for Johnson & Johnson, they have a lot of pending litigation. There’s a federal lawsuit, and there’s, I think, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 other cases that are pending around the country in state courts. So, while 572 in and of itself may not be a large sum to a company like Johnson & Johnson, certainly, if all of their verdicts are this size, then yes, I think they have a much bigger problem.

Joe: Where does this money go?

Ben: It depends. I don’t know that that’s clear as of this point in time, but there are examples in the past that we can look at. For example, Big Tobacco was kind of hit pretty hard in the late ’90s. A lot of that money goes to research, other foundations, and things of that nature, so not really clear. I don’t know who will be overseeing the distribution of that money and to what state programs. A lot of times it goes into things that have nothing to do with the opioid crisis, for example.

Joe: But the important thing is that this sets a precedent, right?

Ben: It certainly sets a mile mark for the type of money that could be levied against Johnson & Johnson. Where this goes, I don’t know, but certainly I think Johnson & Johnson has to be aware of what is coming down the road. And I think Johnson & Johnson has to be acutely aware of what the public sentiment is and how the tides are changing. It’s a very interesting case. It’s very nuanced with respect to the arguments that are made that tethered Johnson & Johnson and pharmaceutical companies to the opioid crisis. It’s very interesting how they’re tied into it. Certainly, they had deceptive practices and there’s a lot going on there, but ultimately we have a crisis on our hands here in the States and it’s gotta be dealt with. Litigation is part of it, but there’s another community caretaking function that has to take place as well. Hopefully, some of this money will go to those programs and do some good work.

Joe: Right. And Johnson & Johnson, they’re not the only company out there making opiates. Other companies who are doing it, are they subject to a similar lawsuit?

Ben: Generally speaking, they are part of this lawsuit, and ,for example, in the Oklahoma case that we’re discussing right now, there were other pharmaceutical companies that settled the case prior to trial.

Joe: I see.

Ben: So they offered some settlement money. That settlement was accepted by the plaintiffs, state, and Johnson & Johnson said, “We’re going to trial. We will take our chances in the court of law to see what kind of monetary damages are associated with our wrongdoing.”

Joe: All right. Well, thanks for the info, Ben.

Ben: Joe, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for calling.

Joe: Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Again, you can call them at any time at 1-800-LAW-1010 or go online to Mel Allen taking over from here. He’s got music from Billy Squier and Metallica next.