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Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a district judge's $465 million opioid verdict against Johnson & Johnson, saying that the drugmaker did not violate the state's public nuisance law.

Catch up quick: A district judge had previously ruled that J&J had violated the law because the company created a public nuisance by falsely promoting its opioids as safe and necessary. Oklahoma's high court, in a 5-1 vote, said that interpretation is wrong.

Details: The court said the public nuisance law could not be extended to "envelop J&J's conduct as an opioid manufacturer" for three reasons:

  • "[T]he manufacture and distribution of products rarely cause a violation of a public right."
  • "[A] manufacturer does not generally have control of its product once it is sold."
  • "[A] manufacturer cannot be held perpetually liable for its products."

What they're saying: "J&J no longer promotes any prescription opioids and has not done so for several years," the Oklahoma Supreme Court wrote in its opinion.

  • "Even with J&J’s marketing practices these ... medications amounted to less than 1% of all Oklahoma opioid prescriptions."

Flashback: The district court's 2019 ruling that said that J&J was responsible for fueling Oklahoma's opioid pandemic was "a groundbreaking ruling and a potentially ominous harbinger for the opioid companies and distributors at the heart of the enormous national lawsuit pending before an Ohio judge," Axios' Bob Herman reported at the time.

Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Dec 2, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

How SCOTUS' ruling on Mississippi abortion case would impact Iowa

Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

Abortion will remain legal in Iowa if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, but access to nearby abortion clinics may become more difficult for western Iowans.

Driving the news: The nation's high court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Dec 3, 2021 - Health

Overturning Roe could strain abortion access even in blue states

The Supreme Court is reflected in a woman's sunglasses during a march Oct. 2. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortions could be harder to access even in states where they remain legal, because those clinics could be flooded with patients from states that have cracked down.

The big picture: This has happened before, and clinics fear the crush of demand would be a major problem in the immediate wake of a decision that would allow states to ban abortion.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.