First Opioid Trial Takes Aim at J & J

“So much of the litigation has remained under seal or redacted that this will be the public’s first glimpse into Pandora’s box,” said Elizabeth C. Burch, a law professor at the University of Georgia who writes about mass torts.

Oklahoma, a largely rural state whose medical, social welfare and criminal justice systems have been ravaged by opioid addictions and deaths, has “home court advantage,” Ms. Burch said.

“If J & J prevails in Oklahoma, they may feel they are gaining leverage” in the federal negotiations, said Alexandra D. Lahav, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law who is an expert on bellwether trials.

In redacted court documents, Oklahoma has accused J & J of targeting patient groups for opioid sales, including veterans, older adults and children.

The first is the company’s marketing and sales practices, including targeting populations like veterans and children, and using patient front groups and high-profile doctors who oversold the benefits and downplayed the risks of the drugs.

That was likely because, said Adam Zimmerman, who teaches complex litigation at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, Judge Balkman has made rulings against the defense and has steadily marched the parties toward a trial date.

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