Connect with us

U.S.

Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572M for Contributing to the Opioid Crisis in Landmark Ruling

Published

on

  • In a landmark decision, a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to the state of Oklahoma for deceptive opioid marketing and for significantly contributing to the opioid crisis.
  • This is the first legal battle a pharmaceutical company has lost in relation to the opioid crisis, though attorneys for Johnson & Johnson say they will appeal the decision with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
  • Monday’s decision could provide a precedent for future cases against companies manufacturing opioids, including a consolidated case of nearly 2,000 lawsuits that is set to be heard by a federal judge in Ohio this October.

Johnson & Johnson Loses Lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson became the first pharmaceutical company to lose a legal battle concerning accountability in relation to the opioid crisis after a judge slapped the company with a $572 million bill on Monday.

The case, part of a lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma, accused Johnson & Johnson of deceptive marketing that led, in part, to the opioid crisis the nation faces today. Judge Thad Balkman, who presided over the case, sided with the state in his opinion and found that Johnson & Johnson’s practices lead to higher rates of addiction and overdose.

“Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans,” Balkman said while announcing his decision in court. “Specifically, defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths, and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma.” 

“[Johnson & Johnson] promoted their specific opioids using misleading marketing,” Balkman wrote in his opinion. “Among other things, they sent sales representatives in Oklahoma doctors’ offices to deliver misleading messages, they disseminated misleading pamphlets, coupons, and other printed materials for patients and doctors, and they misleadingly advertised their drugs over the internet.”

While the state had asked for $17.5 billion, Judge Balkman said the state had not provided “sufficient evidence” of costs past the first year of a 30-year plan to cover a wide range of services. That plan includes treatment for victims, emergency care, law enforcement, social services, and other addiction-related needs.

Nonetheless, in a press conference immediately following the verdict, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called the decision a “great triumph” for the state.

“What we showed during our seven-week trial and what Judge Balkman confirmed today is what we know now for certain,” Hunter said. “Johnson & Johnson was the kingpin behind the nation’s opioid crisis.”

Meanwhile, an attorney representing Johnson & Johnson blasted the ruling and said the company will appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

“Today’s decision represents a radical departure from more than a century of case law in this state,” attorney Sabrina Strong said on Monday. 

The case, which began in May, had also accused Teva Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma of similar practices, but the companies reached settlement agreements of $85 million and $270 million, respectively, before the trial began.

“Public Nuisance” Laws

The trial was argued under the basis of Oklahoma public nuisance laws, which has never been done against a pharmaceutical company. Generally, public nuisance laws pertain to property disputes, though the laws are broad in Oklahoma and can be applied to health-related issues, as well. 

During the trial, the state argued Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance by spreading false information to everyone from the public to doctors prescribing medicine, fueling the opioid crisis. Part of that included advertising the drugs as “safe and effective,” essentially downplaying the drugs’ addictive qualities.

It also accused Johnson & Johnson of refining a highly-addictive opioid poppy, the raw products of which were later sold to other opioid manufacturers. In fact, through this mechanism, Johnson & Johnson supplies 60 percent of the opioid ingredients used by major opioid manufacturers.

The state also pointed to a wide range of statistics, notably, contending that more than 6,000 Oklahomans have died since 2000 because of opioid-related illnesses. The state also claimed that by 2017, pharmacies were filling an average of 479 opioid prescriptions an hour. 

On the defendant side, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson denied any misleading advertising. They also testified that the company shouldn’t be held liable, arguing the opioids were supplied legally and were tightly regulated by the FDA.

“No Oklahoma court has ever done what this court has done today in applying public nuisance law to any commercial activity, let alone the highly-regulated area of prescription medicines,” Strong said. “The decision violates well-established constitutional principles, including due process of law.” 

Lawyers also argued that the company only directly sold a relatively small amount of opioids, amounting to about 1% of all opioids sold in the country.

What This Decision Means for Similar Cases

Because of the nature of the case, it is being hailed as a landmark decision, and many believe it could set a precedent for upcoming cases. Not only is Johnson & Johnson being held accountable for the opioid epidemic, but it was also the first pharmaceutical company to have lost in a public nuisance lawsuit.

In October, a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio will oversee another major lawsuit, this one involving nearly 2,000 cases consolidated under one umbrella. If the plaintiffs are successful, that case could potentially pave the way for more lawsuits in 2020.

In 2017, the White House Council of Economic Advisers published an analysis attributing a cost of $504 billion to the opioid epidemic. Plaintiffs hope these lawsuits can recover those costs to pay for the destruction caused by the opioid crisis.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CBS News) (KOCO)

U.S.

Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council

Published

on

If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.


Police Chief Faces Public Fury

Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.

Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.

Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.

He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.

Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.

Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.

Emotions Erupt at City Council

Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.

“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”

Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.

“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”

One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.

“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”

After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.

On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

Continue Reading

U.S.

Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”

Published

on

New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.


Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes

Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.

The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.

District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.

“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”

At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.

Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.

Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.

Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside

Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.

One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”

“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.

“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”

“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.

According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.

One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.

At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

Continue Reading

U.S.

Ohio Governor Signs Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns With 24 Hours of Training

Published

on

“They will have blood on their hands,” Ohio State Senator Theresa Fedor said.


Teachers to Bear Arms

Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law Monday allowing teachers and other school staff to carry firearms on campus with a fraction of the training previously required.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last year that school employees need to complete 700 hours of training as a peace officer, as well as the permission from their school board before arming themselves, but Monday’s law changes that.

Starting in the fall, school staff will only have to complete up to 24 hours of initial training plus eight hours of requalification training each year.

DeWine directed the Ohio School Safety Center, which must approve any training programs, to order the maximum 24 hours and eight hours.

Four of those hours consist of scenario-based training and 20 more go toward first-aid training and history of school shootings and reunification education.

Individual school districts can still decide not to allow their staff to carry firearms. Last week, Cleveland’s mayor said the city will refuse to arm teachers, and Columbus has signaled it will not change its policy either.

Another Ohio law went into effect Monday allowing adults over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, training, or background checks. It also ended the requirement for gun carriers to inform police officers if they have a concealed weapon on them unless specifically asked.

Communities shocked by Legislation

Coming just weeks after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers, Monday’s law was not welcome by many Ohioans.

“I think it’s a horrible idea to arm our teachers,” Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant told The Columbus Dispatch. “There’s a lot of training that’s involved in that. It’s naïve to believe that is something we can put on them and expect them to respond to from a law enforcement perspective.”

More police, teachers, and gun control advocates expressed opposition to the legislation, with Democratic State Senator Theresa Fedor telling ABC the bill’s supporters “will have blood on their hands.”

“I’m a veteran classroom teacher of 18 years, been a legislator 22 years,” she said. “I have never seen a bill so poorly written, hurdled through the process. There’s so many flaws in the bill. There’s no minimum education standard, no psychological evaluation, no safe storage.”

A teacher identified as “Coach D” also spoke out against the law on YouTube.

“It took me 12 years of grade school, four years of undergrad, and two years of graduate school, not to mention continued education and professional development for years to be able to teach in my classroom,” he said. “I’ve now been doing that for over 20 years. But now, with only 24 hours of training in Ohio, I could be authorized to bring a lethal weapon into the classroom and expected to take on an active shooter, and then what? Go back to teaching word problems?”

At a Monday press conference, reporter Josh Rultenberg confronted DeWine with challenging questions, posting several videos of the exchange in a Twitter thread.

When asked if he would take accountability if this law allowed for a teacher to shoot the wrong kid, Dewine said that “in life we make choices, and we don’t always know what the outcome is going to be.”

“What this legislature has done, I’ve done by signing it, is giving schools an option based on their particular circumstances to make the best decision they can make with the best information they have,” he continued.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The Columbus Dispatch) (ABC)

Continue Reading