By Todd Horwitz

Johnson and Johnson Reaches Settlement

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic. Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga Summit Counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

“The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis,” Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals said in a statement Tuesday night. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need.”

Yet the deal, which includes no admission of liability, still leaves J&J facing hundreds of other opioid lawsuits. The two Ohio counties behind the lawsuit, Cuyahoga and Summit, are home to cities including Cleveland and Akron that have been hit hard by the opioid crisis.

As in thousands of other opioid-related lawsuits filed by local and state municipalities, the counties accused J&J and other companies of contributing to widespread addiction through aggressive marketing practices and lax distribution policies. J&J said Tuesday the company is “open to identifying an appropriate, comprehensive resolution of the overall opioid litigation” but is also prepared to defend its marketing and other actions.

Frank Gallucci, a lawyer for Cuyahoga County, said “the settlement represents an important milestone in the litigation in that it gets much-needed funds to the county in the immediate future,” including funding to address the needs of opioid-exposed babies.

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz