ATRA Warns Against ‘New Species of Super Tort’ in Oklahoma Opioid Judgment

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Amanda Bronstad with writes about the potential repercussions if the 2019 $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson stands.

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The judge who awarded a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson allowed a “new species of super tort” in applying Oklahoma’s public nuisance law to the state’s opioid crisis, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a court filing this week.

The unprecedented finding, if upheld, would “devour all of Oklahoma tort law,” according to the Chamber and the American Tort Reform Association in a joint amicus brief filed on Tuesday before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which is reviewing the Nov. 15 judgment issued by Cleveland County District Court Judge Thad Balkman.

“AG Hunter’s opioid lawsuit and last summer’s judgment dramatically expanded public nuisance law and caused great concern for manufacturers of all products,” said Tiger Joyce, president of the ATRA, which added Oklahoma to its “Judicial Hellholes” report last year because of the opioid verdict. “The fear now is that other industries, including Oklahoma’s own oil and gas producers, may be targeted for a similar public nuisance claim on issues like climate change.”

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