January 12, 2018
On Thursday January 11, 2018, Cleveland County Oklahoma Judge Thad Balkman ordered that the State of Oklahoma’s trial against several major manufacturers of addictive opioid drugs will begin on May 28, 2019.
The State is represented by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and the law firms of Whitten Burrage and Nix, Patterson.
Whitten Burrage co-founder, Michael Burrage, said the Court’s order means “the State of Oklahoma will be the first state to put these company’s executives in a witness stand, under oath, and explain to a jury the role of each of them played in creating the worst public health crisis the State has ever seen.” Burrage continued “the State alleges Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva, and Cephalon all worked and conspired to create a demand for their addictive drugs in Oklahoma using false marketing tactics. They turned kids and parents into addicts. Families are devastated. Babies are dying. And the people of Oklahoma are left to pay for it while these companies walked away with billions.”
Nix Patterson Partner, Brad Beckworth, added “these companies all played a part in creating this crisis. For example, Johnson and Johnson didn’t just sell opioid drugs—they actually owned a company in Australia that farmed special poppies and then sold the base opiate substances used by other drug companies to make their pills. Like everyone in this industry, J&J had a strong motive to make sure more people got addicted and more pills got sold.” Beckworth added, “Oklahoma law has joint and several liability. That means that each individual defendant who played a role in creating this nuisance can be made to pay for the entire amount of the State’s damages—even if that defendant had a small market share.”
Burrage’s partner, Reggie Whitten, concluded: “I have tried a lot of cases to Oklahoma juries. The right to a jury trial is one of the most important rights we have in our country. That has never been more true given the epidemic these companies caused. We are excited Judge Balkman has given us a firm date. There is a lot of work to be done, but we will work with General Hunter and we will be ready.”