Last week, Johnson & Johnson announced it reached a $20.4 million settlement with Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio. According to the statement, the company resolves all claims by the counties without admission of liability. Under the agreed terms, Johnson & Johnson would pay the Ohio counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, manufactured two opioids that were distributed in Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Johnson & Johnson also owned two companies that processed and imported the raw material used to manufacture oxycodone, a dangerous and addictive opioid. The announcement was released on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic. 

“This settlement represents yet another milestone in this litigation as it gets much-needed funding into the community while at the same time providing support for programs addressing opioid-exposed babies and their families,” said Frank L. Gallucci, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The trial involving the Ohio counties is what’s known as a “bellwether” case; it is designed to be a test to determine the turnout of other lawsuits against the companies of harmful opioid production. Another is scheduled for early next year and will focus on West Virginia, specifically Cabell County and the city of Huntington, which has the highest opioid overdose death rate in the nation.