Judge Balkman rules not to delay state’s opioid trial

Judge keeps opioid trial on track

Judge keeps opioid trial on track

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled to avoid a delay in the state's trial against the nation's leading manufacturers of opioid pain medication.

Eric Pinker, Purdue's lawyer, made no mention of a potential bankruptcy while arguing that the May 28 trial in the lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter against it, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd should be delayed.

But the judge said the drugmakers had not established the state's actions had prejudiced them.

The drugmakers had sought a 100-day postponement of the trial, saying that the state had handed over a "massive 11th-hour production" of evidence and that more time was needed to go through the material.

He said delaying the trial to September 16 was necessary because the state belatedly turned over 1.6 million pages of records critical to Purdue's defense.

The epidemic has prompted lawsuits by state and local governments accusing Purdue and other drugmakers of contributing to the crisis through deceptive marketing that downplayed the risks of addictive opioids. The State did not target legislators. "The State did not target doctors", Hunter wrote in a court filing. "The defendants did all that".

"I applaud the ruling by Judge Balkman to continue moving this case forward. We remain steadfast in our mission to ending this nightmarish epidemic and the ravages the opioid epidemic has left in its wake in Oklahoma".

The Oklahoma case will be the first to reach trial, with legal observers saying it will be closely watched for precedent.

In the past three years, almost 3,000 people have died of overdose deaths in Oklahoma and more than 1,300 newborns have tested positive for exposure to opioids, according to the attorney general's office.