Attorneys for the state look over court documents following Judge Thad Balkman’s announcement of his decision in the Opioid Lawsuit in Norman, Okla., Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Balkman found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid drug crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to help abate the problem in the coming years. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, Pool)

Attorneys for the state look over court documents following Judge Thad Balkman’s announcement of his decision in the Opioid Lawsuit in Norman, Okla., Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Balkman found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid drug crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to help abate the problem in the coming years. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, Pool)

Oklahoma opioid ruling could pressure pharma companies to settle in B.C.: experts

Ontario and New Brunswick have announced they will participate in B.C.’s lawsuit

An Oklahoma court ruling that found Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis and ordered the company to pay US$572 million could persuade drug manufacturers to settle a similar lawsuit in B.C., legal experts say.

The decision in the United States does not directly apply to B.C. because it found the company created a “public nuisance” under a specific state law, said Dr. Michael Curry, a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia who has a legal background.

B.C., on the other hand, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging a number of pharmaceutical companies falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs and helped trigger an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

ALSO READ: B.C. pleased with Oklahoma ruling in opioids case as it continues lawsuit

But Curry said the fact that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries were ordered to pay Oklahoma more than twice the amount another drug maker agreed to pay in a settlement will add pressure to companies to settle the various claims they’re facing.

“I do think it emphasizes to the pharmaceutical companies that there is going to be some accounting for or responsibility for some of their actions during the opioid crisis. I think it creates pressure from a stock market basis and also a legal basis to settle these claims,” he said.

But Curry noted that Johnson & Johnson’s stock price rose after the ruling because many investors expected the fine to be higher.

READ MORE: Fatal overdoses in B.C. drop 30% during first half of year

Attorneys for the company have maintained that they were part of a lawful and heavily regulated industry subject to strict federal oversight. The lawyers say the ruling was a misapplication of the public nuisance law and they will appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The ruling in Oklahoma followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations in about 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.

Ontario and New Brunswick have announced they will participate in B.C.’s lawsuit, while Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec are participating in a national working group on the case, said B.C. Attorney General David Eby on Tuesday.

Eby said the B.C. case is different because it names dozens of manufacturers and distributors, while Oklahoma named only one company after settling with others. But he said they are based on very similar facts and Johnson & Johnson is a defendant in the province’s suit.

“To have a judge say, ‘Yes, we do see a serious problem here with how this company conducted itself and we do feel that it needs to be paying money out because of the way it marketed these very addictive and harmful drugs,’ is a very positive sign for our litigation here in Canada,” he said.

A case management conference is scheduled for the fall to determine the timeline for the “complex and very dense” litigation, Eby added.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and a defendant in B.C.’s lawsuit, has said that it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations, including those governing marketing, and it’s very concerned about the opioid crisis in B.C. and across Canada.

None of the allegations in the B.C. lawsuit have been tested in court.

READ MORE: Canadian drug makers hit with $1.1B suit for pushing opioids despite risks

READ MORE: Health Canada tightens marketing requirements for opioid prescriptions

Statements of defence from Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma could not be found on the B.C. Supreme Court website on Tuesday.

A ruling in the United States is not binding in Canadian courts, but the Oklahoma judgment and settlements suggest there is a basis to B.C.’s arguments, said Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.

“The concern about pharmaceutical companies and the roles that they have played is a concern that goes beyond the boundary of a single jurisdiction,” Boyd said.

“The precedent of a finding that a pharmaceutical company contributed to the problem that we have seen across North America, I’m very sure that ruling has the attention of a number of pharmaceutical companies.”

— With files from The Associated Press.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

A new driver was fined for excessive speed early June 6, 2021, after being pulled over on White Rock's Marine Drive. (White Rock RCMP Twitter photo)
Pricey penalty for new driver clocked at 112 km/h in White Rock

19-year-old Burnaby man’s vehicle impounded

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read