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November 12, 2021

Oklahoma Supreme Court Reverses $465M Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson in Opioid Case

On November 9, in a 5-1 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed a district court decision that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $465M to the state for the company’s role in the opioid epidemic. The Oklahoma decision comes less than two weeks after a California state court ruled in the drug company’s favor in another opioid lawsuit. Like other states, Oklahoma had sought relief under state public nuisance law. The state’s supreme court held that the district court’s expansion of public nuisance law went too far, and that Oklahoma public nuisance law does not extend to manufacturing, marketing, and selling prescription opioids. The court also noted that public nuisance law and products liability are not intended to overlap, and it warned of the perpetual liability that would result if drug manufacturers could be held liable under public nuisance law.