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J&J, Teva Beat $50 Billion Opioid Case in First Industry Win

  • Judge found local governments couldn’t prove public nuisance
  • California judge’s ruling contrasts with 2019 Oklahoma outcome
Updated on

Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and other former opioid makers scored the pharmaceutical industry’s first win in the sprawling four-year litigation over the drugs, defeating a lawsuit by local governments in California that claimed they created a public-health crisis through misleading marketing.

Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson in Santa Ana on Monday rejected claims that units of J&J, Teva, Endo International Plc and Abbvie Inc.’s Allergan Plc duped doctors and patients about the addictiveness of opioid painkillers and created a so-called “public nuisance” tied to the medications. Officials in Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Orange counties and the city of Oakland sought as much as $50 billion to beef up policing and treatment budges depleted by the epidemic.

It’s the first time a judge or jury has rejected claims by states or local governments that ex-opioid makers should be held liable for the fallout from the U.S. opioid epidemic, which has claimed the lives of almost 500,000 Americans over the last two decades. Teva shares rose as much as 11% in Tel Aviv Tuesday.

“The court finds plaintiffs failed to prove an actionable public nuisance for which the defendants are legally liable,” Wilson concluded in a tentative ruling.