NORMAN –Attorney General Mike Hunter today dismissed without prejudice several claims filed against opioid manufacturers, refocusing the case on its central claim, abating the public nuisance caused by the companies’ decades-long fraudulent marketing campaigns.
The move came during another hearing where defendants were tying up the court and the state’s attorneys with a blizzard of pretrial motions.
The state dismissed all claims other than its public nuisance claim, which has always been the most important and consequential cause of action against the defendants. The public nuisance claim provides the state with a comprehensive plan to address and remediate the effects the opioid crisis continues to have across the state.
Dismissing the claims without prejudice does not limit the state’s ability to reassert these claims in the future if necessary. Nor does it reduce the amount of damages the state is seeking from the defendants in the lawsuit.
The move will also obviate defendants continuing stall tactics and complaints that the current pretrial schedule gives them inadequate time to prepare for a jury trial.
It also addresses prior criticisms by the defendants that cameras in the courtroom could prejudice or distract a jury since the case will now be heard by Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman, rather than a jury.
The trial remains set to begin May 28. The judge’s order allowing cameras in the courtroom is still in place.
Attorney General Hunter said the move is necessary because defendants’ are wasting time that could be spent preparing for trial.
“The defendants in this case have tried in every way imaginable to derail our trial date,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Judge Balkman has repeatedly denied requests to push the trial back multiple times, just as the Oklahoma Supreme Court has. Moving forward with the state’s public nuisance claim moots most of the issues raised by the defendants in discovery, allowing the parties and the judge to focus on preparing for this trial, set to begin in less than eight weeks.
“The team and I remain laser focused on the goal we set since filing this lawsuit: holding those responsible for creating this crisis accountable and bring an end to the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma.”
To read the filing, click here.