Trial begins in first state lawsuit against opioid makers

Posted at 12:38 PM, May 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-28 17:47:03-04

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The nation's first state trial against drugmakers blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis is underway in Oklahoma.

Opening arguments started Tuesday with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter saying powerful painkillers led to the "worst man-made public health crisis" in U.S. history.

Drugmakers deny those claims.


Lawyers for consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson and several subsidiaries are expected to start making their case later Tuesday. Two other pharmaceutical companies, including the maker of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, have settled with Oklahoma. The trial could set the state for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's own lawsuit against the same companies.

The trial could bring to light documents and testimony that show what the companies knew, when they knew it and how they responded.

In opening statements Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said, "Our evidence will show, your honor, that in their zeal to provide a magic drug they ignored centuries of experience, well documented scientific histories of deadly addiction epidemics and embarked on a cynical, deceitful multi-million dollar brainwashing campaign to establish opioid analgesics as the magic drug."

The state attorney general went on to say, "We've dealt with some of the fallout of defendants actions. It's time to hold them responsible for their actions."

The outcome could also shape negotiations on how to resolve the roughly 1,500 opioid lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments. Those have been consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio, and include lawsuits from at least half a dozen Tampa Bay area cities and counties.

Moody says the opioid crisis is killing 17 people a day in Florida. She's pushing for the state to go to trial against these drugmakers as soon as next spring.