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(Reuters) - An Oklahoma judge will rule on Monday on whether Johnson & Johnson should be held liable in a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general who argues the drugmaker should be forced to pay $17 billion for fueling the opioid epidemic.
Judge Thad Balkman in Norman, Oklahoma, will deliver his decision from the bench after presiding over the first trial to result from thousands of lawsuits by state and local governments against opioid manufacturers and distributors, the court said.
Opioids were involved in almost 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, some 6,000 Oklahomans have died from opioid overdoses, according to the state’s lawyers.
During a seven-week, non-jury trial that began in May, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sought to establish that J&J carried out a years-long marketing campaign that minimized the addictive painkillers’ risks while promoting their benefits.
Lawyers for the state called J&J an opioid “kingpin” and contended its marketing efforts created a public nuisance in the form of the opioid crisis as doctors over-prescribed the drugs, leading to a surge in overdose deaths in Oklahoma.
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