Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers are on trial in California and were settled with New York State and two New York boroughs last month, on the eve of the trial. The money for the New York settlement, $ 230 million, is paid over nine years, plus an additional $ 33 million in legal fees and fees, which will be deducted from the national amount when it is closed.
Legal fees were a sticking point for years. Countless lawyers did different amounts of work and argued during the negotiations about who should get paid how much. The comparison found that about $ 1.6 billion in fees and costs would be paid to private attorneys representing thousands of counties and communities, $ 50 million in costs, and about $ 350 million in private attorneys serving states worked.
Johnson & Johnson, widely known as a company that prefers to take cases to court rather than settle them, has faced a flurry of negative publicity in recent years. Last month, the United States Supreme Court approved a $ 2.1 billion judgment against the company for asbestos deaths related to talcum powder. The company has also been hit by reports of rare cases of blood clotting and neurological disease related to its single-dose Covid vaccine and a recall of some of its sunscreens.
But the plaintiffs were also faced with increasing pressure to settle, as legal fees rose.
Most importantly, the number of people dependent on prescription opioids and street drugs increased during the pandemic. Last week, the federal government announced that 2020 had seen a record number of deaths from overdoses from illegal and prescribed opioids.
In particular, the settlement funds are not intended to compensate the families of the victims of the two decades-long opioid crisis in which, according to federal data, at least 500,000 people died from overdoses of prescription and street opioids.
These cases were largely brought up by state, local, and tribal governments under a theory known as “public nuisance” – that opioid supply chain companies were responsible for creating a disaster that harmed public health. The cure for a public harassment claim is “mitigation” – money for programs to reduce “harassment”.
While critics of the current settlement argue that distributors still have 17 years to earn their share, defenders of the deal point out that long-term cash injections are required for programs such as addiction prevention, education, and treatment.
Sarah Maslin Nir contributed to the coverage.