Johnson & Johnson files motion to move class-action opioid lawsuit to higher court

By Sandra Lane | Jun 17, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. filed a motion June 4 to move a class-action lawsuit against them and 21 additional pharmaceutical companies to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana from the Civil District Court of the Parish of Orleans.

The defendants cited the Class Action Fairness Act as the basis for their request. As stated in the motion, “Under CAFA, federal district courts have original jurisdiction over any class action where the matter in controversy exceeds $5 million, exclusive of interest and costs, and at least one plaintiff class member is diverse from at least one defendant."

The motion said the diversity condition requires at least one plaintiff class member to reside in or be incorporated in a different jurisdiction.

As for the amount of damages, the defendants said that “It is apparent that plaintiff seeks potential damages greater than $5 million, exclusive of interests and costs.”   

Defendant's attorney Kelly Juneau Rookard  

To further support their argument for moving the lawsuit, the defendants said “there are no exceptions to this court’s CAFA jurisdiction.”  They said that even where a district court has jurisdiction under CAFA, certain exceptions, such as government entity, class size, discretionary, local controversy and home state exceptions, may preclude the court’s exercise of that jurisdiction. According to the defendants, the “plaintiff bears the burden of establishing any exception to this court’s CAFA jurisdiction.”

In addition, the defendants said a discretionary jurisdiction exception does not apply in this instance.  “A district court may decline to exercise CAFA jurisdiction where greater than one-third but less than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate and the primary defendants are citizens of the state in which the action was originally filed,” the petition said. 

Johnson & Johnson maintains that this exception does not apply. “The citizenship of the putative class members is unclear from the face of the petition," the motion said. "However, even if the proposed class were composed of between one-third and two-thirds Louisiana citizens, the primary defendants are not citizens of the State of Louisiana. Only one of the 23 defendants in this action is a citizen of Louisiana. One out of 23 is not all. So CAFA’s discretionary jurisdiction exception does not apply.”

The class-action lawsuit was filed April 25 by Odyssey House Louisiana Inc. The petition asked for injunctive relief and damages on behalf of Odyssey and “all Louisiana drug/addiction rehabilitation/recovery centers that treat opioid addicts.” The plaintiff named as defendants 23 manufacturers of prescription opioid medications and Louisiana wholesale pharmaceutical distributor, Morris and Dickson Co. LLC.

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