Orange County Judge Issues Tentative Ruling on Opioid Lawsuit

This week, an Orange County Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling in a lawsuit between several jurisdictions and opioid manufacturers.

The lawsuit, brought by Los Angeles, Orange, and Santa Clara counties and the City of Oakland, claimed pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, Endo International, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries contributed to the state’s opioid epidemic by downplaying the risks of opioid addiction, overdose, and death to health care providers and patients. The jurisdictions sought more than $50 billion to cover costs of abating the public nuisance caused by the opioid epidemic, plus penalties. The award from the suit would have supported ongoing opioid use disorder prevention and treatment programs in the plaintiff jurisdictions.

However, Judge Peter Wilson was not convinced of the pharmaceutical companies’ wrongdoing, noting in his ruling, “There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the result of medically appropriate provision of pain medication to patients in need. Any adverse downstream consequences flowing from medically appropriate prescriptions cannot constitute an actionable public nuisance.”

All parties involved, including Judge Wilson, have acknowledged the state and country’s ongoing opioid crisis. Monday’s tentative ruling in Orange County marks the first trial win for pharmaceutical companies in more than 3,000 lawsuits filed by states and local governments throughout the U.S.

Plaintiffs in the case are anticipated to appeal to “ensure no opioid manufacturer can engage in reckless corporate practices that compromise public health in the state for their own profit.”

The full tentative ruling is available here.