How will opioid ruling in Oklahoma affect similar lawsuit in Bexar County?

Bexar County seeking $1 billion in lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Bill Caldera - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - A landmark ruling Monday by an Oklahoma state judge ordering pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the opioid crisis is resonating with the leader of the Bexar County Opioid Task Force.

"It (the Oklahoma case) does kind of create an interesting precedent, in that you have a conservative judge, in a conservative state, finding that these companies engaged in these actions which created this crisis," Mayes said.

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The Oklahoma ruling was based on findings that the pharmaceutical giant misled people about the dangers of opioids.

"The judge also found that the ad campaign led to an increase in opioid deaths and cost to governments in treating the crisis," Mayes said.

Bexar County is making similar claims in its lawsuit against more than 40 pharmaceutical companies, which was filed in May 2018. The county is seeking $1 billion in damages.

"We're going to ask for money to mitigate the problem moving forward. But, we're also going to ask for the manufacturers and distributors to reimburse the county for costs that have been incurred thus far," Mayes said.

Related: Bexar County to seek $1 billion in first opioid trial in Texas

Mayes said it costs $60 a day to have someone in jail. Over the past 10 years, a significant part of the county's jail population included people who were locked up for opioid-related issues. 

He wants the pharmaceutical companies to reimburse the county for those costs, with monies anticipated to be won going toward treatment and prevention.

There are differences between the Oklahoma and Bexar County cases. 

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"First of all, the Oklahoma case was in front of a judge. Our case is going to be decided by a jury. The second, is that they were using Oklahoma state law. We're going to use Texas state law," Mayes said.

The underlying principles of the lawsuit are the same, Mayes said, and he looks forward for the trial, which is scheduled for October 2020.

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