Three years after filing a lawsuit against opioid distributors and manufacturers, Bexar County will see its first payment by the end of the year.

Bexar County commissioners approved accepting settlement payments totaling about $12 million from Johnson & Johnson after the company decided to settle instead of going to trial. The county sued more than 50 companies in 2018, including Johnson & Johnson.

Shelly Sanford, an attorney with Watts Guerra, a law firm representing Bexar County, advised commissioners to take the settlement with Johnson & Johnson. There were two settlements approved on Tuesday — the one filed by Bexar County against Johnson & Johnson, and the one handled by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which covers the entire state.

Johnson & Johnson will directly pay Bexar County just under $2.3 million, while the county will receive $1.8 million as its share from the statewide settlement, Sanford explained. Paxton announced a $291 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday over opioid-related claims.

“I am pleased that all parties have reached final agreement on this monumental settlement,” Paxton said in a statement. “This is the next step to bring much-needed funding for Texans who have fallen victim to the irresponsible and deceptive marketing practices from opioid manufacturers that spurred this epidemic.”

This settlement also has the added benefit of an upfront payment timeline, Sanford said. A previously proposed settlement would have spread payments out over 18 years. 

Bexar County’s lawsuit against the remaining companies, which was originally scheduled to go to trial in October 2020, is currently planned to go to trial next May, Sanford said. Those other companies named in the lawsuit still have time to propose their own settlements.

“I would assume other companies are looking at this [settlement] and deciding whether it’s in their best interest to settle,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

Bexar County will receive another $8 million from the statewide settlement from funds allocated toward the “health care region” that the county resides in. The entire region should receive $17.6 million, Sanford said.

Wolff said commissioners will later have to decide how to use the settlement funds, but that when they first sued, they pledged to put any payout toward opioid and substance abuse treatment programs.

“As soon as we do get some of the money, we’ll seek out what are the best treatment programs to put that money into,” he said. “It’s a real positive step for Bexar County to finally take a step forward and actually get a settlement.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.