NORMAN – Attorney General Mike Hunter released the following statement after today’s hearing in the state’s case against opioid manufacturers, where Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled the state’s public nuisance claim will be tried before him, rather than a jury.
Johnson & Johnson was the only defendant that argued on behalf of a jury trial. After hearing arguments from the company and the state, Judge Balkman said the defendant was not entitled to a jury trial.
Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to have the case heard by the judge because the state had dropped its other claims and was only seeking to abate the ongoing public nuisance.
Also denied by the judge today was a request by Teva to remove several of the company’s subsidiaries and affiliates from the lawsuit. Judge Balkman said the state presented sufficient evidence to keep all of the remaining defendants in the case.
Attorney General Hunter said the rulings are positive for the state as the team continues to prepare for trial.
“We are pleased with today’s developments as we continue to look forward to our trial date where we will show how these companies deceived doctors and Oklahomans, leading to the current epidemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Beginning on May 28, we will show how Johnson & Johnson and Teva made billions of dollars on addiction. The companies knew what they were doing when they hired third parties and key opinion leaders to spread pseudoscience and misinformation about their drugs. They put the corporate bottom line over the health and wellbeing of the thousands of individuals who have become addicted or who have died and we are going to make them answer for that.
“I appreciate the outstanding work by the team. They continue to masterfully argue on the state’s behalf. Their time, attention and dedication to this case has been absolutely amazing.”
Acting on another previously filed motion, Judge Balkman ruled against moving the trial to the University of Oklahoma College of Law and will keep it at the Cleveland County Courthouse.