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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Class action says opioid crisis caused insurance costs to increase, but N.J. court not buying it

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Nov 6, 2019


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – On Oct. 10, a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Actavis Pharma Inc. was dismissed by the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Law Division in Camden County as the plaintiff failed to prove the opioid crisis was the reason his insurance premium increased.

“The allegations of the complaint sufficiently allege facts to support plaintiff’s claim of the complicity of defendants in creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis,” wrote Presiding Judge Steven J. Polansky. 

“The court concludes that while defendants should be held responsible for such conduct if established, this particular plaintiff and this particular proposed class are simply not the appropriate vehicle to vindicate the rights of those who have been impacted by the alleged conduct of defendants. The alleged harm to plaintiff is far too attenuated and remote.”

Polansky added that the damages and injuries the plaintiff Matthew Enriqguez said he suffered as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s actions are too isolated and this can’t be remedied through an amended complaint. The court dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

Polansky also pointed out how unrealistic it is to not only state that insurance premiums have hit a boost because of the opioid crisis but to also calculate how much said increase was thanks to the opioid crisis. The judge said the plaintiff failed to show causation and offer a process that would be able to prove the difference between treatment for the opioid crisis in comparison to prescribing opioids for other issues.

“There are a myriad of reasons, independent of the opioid epidemic, which have an impact on insurance costs,” Polansky wrote. “Some costs may be borne by insurers resulting in lower profits, some may be paid by employers and some may be passed on to the purchasers of health insurance.”

The costs could also see more co-pays, deductibles, and limits on coverage.

Polansky determined that there are several factors that could have resulted in higher health insurance.

Enriqguez took issue with having to pay what he said was an inflated insurance premium after his insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, covered rehab costs and opioid medication for other individuals who were insured with the group. 

He alleged the defendants took part in a false marketing scheme and controlled research results to make opioids look less dangerous than they actually are. Enriqguez claimed that alleged actions like this and others led to doctors prescribing and patients taking more opioids without being aware of the true dangers, and this made insurance companies have to pay more money for necessary treatment and raising insurance costs for insureds.

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Organizations in this Story

New Jersey Superior Court Law DivisionJohnson & Johnson

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