Johnson & Johnson Settles Opioid Lawsuits With Two Ohio Counties

By Kelly Burch 10/04/19

The settlement is tiny compared to a recent $572 million ruling against Johnson & Johnson for its role in the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma.

Johnson & Johnson reaching a settlement in two Ohio counties
ID 103770143 © Tero Vesalainen |

Johnson & Johnson has reached a settlement deal with two Ohio counties in the “bellwether” case for the national opioid lawsuits. 

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay a $20.4 million settlement to Summit and Cuyahoga counties. That includes $10 million in cash and $5 million in legal fee reimbursement. Another $5.4 million will be donated to addiction treatment and opioid-related programs in the counties. 

“This settlement represents yet another milestone in this litigation as it gets much-needed funding into the community while at the same time providing support for programs addressing opioid-exposed babies and their families,” the counties' attorney, Frank L. Gallucci, told The Washington Post

Johnson & Johnson argued previously that its opioid products made up fewer than 1% of opioid sales in the two counties, and therefore could not be held responsible for addiction in the counties. However, it decided not to take that argument to trial. 

“The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need.”

A Small Price To Pay

The settlement is tiny compared to a recent $572 million ruling against Johnson & Johnson for its role in the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma. The company was one of the only defendants in that case that did not reach a settlement before trial. The company is appealing that ruling.

Johnson & Johnson's stock rose after the Ohio settlement was announced, indicating that investors see this as a win for the company. 

Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals have also reached settlements in the bellwether case, which is meant to set the stage for more than 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits from around the country. So far, the two counties reached settlements worth a total of $60 million, The New York Times reported. However, six defendants are still slated to go to trial, which will begin at the end of the month. The jury selection will begin within two weeks. 

More Counties To Come

Attorneys for the counties said that they are preparing for the trial. “We continue our preparation ahead of the October 21st trial where we plan to hold the remaining opioid makers and distributors accountable for fueling the crisis that has led to thousands of deaths in Ohio and across the country.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.