The opioid ruling saw Oklahoma receive $527 million dollars. At face value an enormous amount of money issuing blame to Johnson & Johnson for playing a role in causing the opioid epidemic. While such was celebrated as a landmark ruling, it should be understood that the importance of stated ruling had all to do with the precedent set rather than the check that will be written.
The $527 million ruling is but a meager sum of the settlement requested on behalf of the plaintiffs that only covers one days worth of reparations outlined to heal the state in the wake of the crisis. The plaintiffs originally asked for $17 billion to cover a 30 day plan.
That said, the platform by which the case was tried provides a unique precedent for trying corporations. Judge Balkman held the defendants, Johnson & and Johnson, liable on charges of public nuisance by continually downplaying the addictive risks of opioids. That is, Balkman effectively concluded that J&J interfered with the rights of the public. Such an interpretation of Oklahoma's public nuisance law provides a platform by which corporations can be tried and perhaps held accountable for egregious acts that damage the general publics' well being.
The opioid ruling itself, therefore, should not be celebrated for the dent it makes in the pockets of Pharma but instead the precedent that might allow corporate malpractice and corruption to be checked and challenged.