An Oklahoma judge’s $572 million verdict Monday (Aug. 26) against the pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson for its role in the state’s opioid crisis gained endorsements from federal and state government leaders.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman, from his courtroom in Norman, Okla., issued the ground-breaking ruling in what is reportedly the first major lawsuit against an opioid manufacturer to go to trial. Hundreds of such suits are awaiting trial, and more than 1,700 suits have been combined in a federal court in Ohio, according to The Daily Oklahoman.
Prescription opioids, referred to also as painkillers, were connected to more than 6,100 deaths in Oklahoma from 2000 to 2017, the Oklahoma City newspaper reported. Among common prescription opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
In his opinion, Balkman found the marketing campaigns of Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries were “false, misleading, and dangerous” and “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths,” and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a Southern Baptist, said it was “a day of justice” for opioid victims and their families. Lankford — a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City — commended state Attorney General Mike Hunter and his legal team.
“While money will not help restore the loss of life and life-long consequences of the crisis of addiction and dependency, this money will help prevent a crisis like this in the future and help Oklahomans struggling with addiction,” Lankford said.
Hunter called Balkman’s opinion a “major victory for the state of Oklahoma, the nation and everyone who has lost a loved one because of an opioid overdose. Judge Balkman has affirmed our position that Johnson & Johnson maliciously and diabolically created the opioid epidemic in our state. Our evidence convincingly showed that this company did not just lie and mislead, they colluded with other companies en route to the deadliest manmade epidemic our nation has ever seen.”
Messengers to the 2018 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution on opioid abuse and addiction.
The resolution called on pastors and churches to be informed of the dangers of opioids, urged governments at all levels to cooperate to address the crisis, and encouraged “the medical community, insurance providers, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers to advocate for the prescription of opioids under only the most stringent standards.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the case “illustrates the severity of the crisis of opioid addiction raging in communities across the country.”
“Families are being ripped apart due to substance addiction, and we as a nation ought to do all we can to stop this nightmare,” Moore told Baptist Press. “As we do, my prayer is that our churches will also hold out the Gospel of grace to those imperiled families and communities and would lead many to recovery and newness of life in Christ.”
Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal what it described as a flawed opinion.
Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press