Judge Orders Company to Pay $465 In Civil Litigation Dispute
More and more pharmaceutical companies that produce opioids are not only being successfully sued by plaintiffs in connection with product liability claims, but now public nuisance claims as well. In fact, a judge recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $465 million for deceptive marketing in connection with the opioid epidemic, finding that the company had caused a public nuisance in the form of the opioid crisis.
The question now becomes whether this public nuisance argument – that companies that manufacture opioids interfered with the public’s right to be free from unwarranted illness and addiction – will work in additional forthcoming mass tort claims (in conjunction with products liability claims) to bring about justice for consumers. While this entirely depends upon how the courts apply state law, arguably, the $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson has already placed a number of manufacturers on notice that they may want to settle the claims against them rather than go to trial.
Florida’s Battle with The Opioid Epidemic
Florida has suffered significantly from opioids: Between 2003 and 2010, Florida became known for its “pill mills,” which included doctors, pain clinics, and other providers dispensing large quantities of opioids for cash outstand standard medical practices and state oversight. By 2010, 90 out of 100 doctors purchasing oxycodone in the country were practicing in Florida and there was a rapid increase in mortality from prescription opioid overdoses in Florida. South Florida in particular is still in the midst of an epidemic, where almost 1,700 people died of overdoses there in 2016 alone and in 2017, state providers wrote almost 61 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in the state.
Florida Public Nuisance Law
In Florida, a nuisance is a condition or conduct that interferes with a right that is common to the general public and which is abatable. Florida, like other states, has a specific statute which provides for safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens, and that includes any parties that present a threat to the public health. Florida’s statute in particular declares “controlled substances illegally kept, sold, or used” to be a “public nuisance,” arguably setting the stage for making that connection between the opioid epidemic and public nuisance claims. The Florida legislature has also enacted a statute that allows citizens to file actions to enjoin certain categories of nuisances and the individuals maintaining it.
Still, while nuisance claims have been successful thus far in some states when it comes to the opioid epidemic, in other mass tort cases it has not been as successful, for example, in holding asbestos, gun, and lead paint manufacturers liable. Some courts have held that in order to prove that there has been interference with a public right, there must be interference with a specific resource, such as air or water.
Contact The Very Best Florida Civil Litigation Lawyer
The Orlando civil litigation attorneys at The Baez Law Firm are experienced and have worked on high profile, complex cases. We handle all types of civil litigation cases, products liability, torts, injuries, and more. If you or a loved one has been injured or wronged, contact our office today to find out how we can help.