Purdue Pharma and another pharmaceutical, Teva, were initially defendants in the same Oklahoma suit, but settled separately rather than go to trial.
The decision in Oklahoma rests largely on the state’s public nuisance law, which mark actions that interfere with or obstruct the rights of the community as criminal. Usually, these laws are applied in situations where something interferes with land, roads, or water—but Oklahoma’s is particularly broad. “The victory was not a foregone conclusion,” says Nora Freeman Engstrom, an expert in tort law and a professor at Stanford Law School. “The case only involved one defendent, and public nuisance claims can be difficult for plaintiffs, particularly when the underlying conduct does not involve property but product liability.”