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Judge: Johnson & Johnson Liable for $572 Million in Oklahoma Opioid Trial; Tropical Storm Dorian Gaining Strength; Bizarre Sequence Leaves Two Kids Dead; Taylor Swift's Messages to White House; Brazil to Reject $20 Million Aid Offer from G7; Serena Beats Sharapova in Blockbuster Opener. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 05:00   ET



MIKE HUNTER, OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Prescription drugs devastated communities, this groundbreaking decision on opioids could cost the pharmaceutical industry billions.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: State of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian churns toward Puerto Rico. What lies in store later this week?

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, two kids are killed in Ohio in a bizarre sequence involving two car crashes.




BRIGGS: And Taylor Swift wins big at the VMAs but her biggest message had nothing to do with music. Boy, another ear worm from us to you.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

And look who is back. Good to have you back.

ROMANS: I know. I am rested and refreshed. Did anything happen while I was gone?

BRIGGS: No, nothing went on.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, it is Tuesday, August 27th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Good morning, everyone. And this is our big story this morning. A game changing court ruling

in the opioid crisis. The epidemic that has killed more than 400,000 people over the last 20 years. Now, a judge in Oklahoma holding Johnson & Johnson responsible for fueling the state's opioid epidemic.

The court ruled the drugmaker must pay $572 million in damages.


HUNTER: Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state.


BRIGGS: It's a first time the court has held a pharmaceutical company accountable for the opioid crisis, and an ominous sign for opioid makers and distributors targeted in an enormous national lawsuit that's set to start trial in Ohio in October.


JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL EXPERT: There are thousands of lawsuits that are still pending. There are thousands of governments that have sued. There are still lots of liability to come.

And you have to remember, this is over half a billion dollars. And Oklahoma is a fairly small state in terms of population. So, when you look at all the other states that have sued, all the other localities that have sued, you're talking about billions and billions of dollars that likely are going to be found that the pharmaceutical companies will have to pay.


BRIGGS: CNN's Alexandra Field has more from the courthouse in Norman, Oklahoma.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, this is indeed an historic ruling. Oklahoma is the first state to bring to try a pharmaceutical company alleging that Johnson & Johnson fueled the opioid crisis in this state through misleading marketing of its prescription drugs.

The judge has decided that Johnson and Johnson must pay the state $572 billion that will go towards programs to prevent and treat opioid addiction. He affirmed the state's position that Johnson and Johnson has created a public nuisance through its misleading marketing on two drugs costing the state billions of dollars and devastating millions of lives.

One Oklahoma man who testified during the eight-week trial about the lost of his son through an opioid overdose says the ruling is about long sought accountability. This is a case that will be studied throughout the country. There are

dozens of other states that would like to do what Oklahoma has now done. And this fall, there will be a federal trial involving a couple of thousand claims from various cities, counties and municipalities, all of which want to see pharmaceutical companies held responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

For its part, Johnson and Johnson says they plan to appeal the ruling immediately. They say that their painkillers are needed for pain management and treatment. They say they have followed all state and federal laws. They believe there are a number of grounds on which they can appeal and they insist that they have been made a scapegoat in what is a larger social problem -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: Alexandra Field in Norman, Oklahoma, for us.

So, the judge didn't give the state of Oklahoma everything it wanted. The request was for $17.5 billion over 30 years to pay for treatment, medical education, overdose prevention, law enforcement. The judge awarded $572 million for the first year, ruling the state did not provide sufficient evidence more money was needed.

Johnson & Johnson's stock rose as much as 5 percent. Why would the stock rise? Well, the company was ordered to pay far less than many investors had feared.

BRIGGS: A major threat looming in the Caribbean from Tropical Storm Dorian. The National Hurricane Center issuing a tropical storm watch for Puerto Rico. The island's governor has issued a state of emergency.

Dorian is strengthening, moving through the Windward Islands right now, and it could become a hurricane as it nears Puerto Rico, churning toward the U.S. this weekend.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest from the CNN weather center.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Dave and Christine.

Tropical Storm Dorian here, a very compact storm that is going to be impacting portions of St. Lucia, Martinique, and eventually, of course, on approach towards areas around Puerto Rico and potentially, the island of Hispaniola.

And because it's such a compact system, any sort of interaction, whether it be with a small island or a larger one in its path, really plays a role to what is left of this storm and what its eventual impact could be farther down the line.

So at this point, we do have tropical storm watches in place from Puerto Rico towards the U.S. Virgin Island, St. Kitts, and also Nevis. And farther towards the south, we do have tropical storm warnings in place with winds there approaching 45 to 65 miles per hour but, of course, stronger gusts over the next couple of days.

[05:05:05] And a brief window in place here over the next 36 hours for this to potentially get up to a category one. Beyond that, of course, larger islands in its path that could disrupt the flow of the storm system. There's also additional wind shear, but a little bit of dry air to deal with as well.

So, a lot of rain going to be the story at this point and we're going to watch this as we approach this weekend -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, you have a busy week. Thank you for that.

Breaking moments ago. Brazil plans to rejects $20 million in aid offered by G7 leaders to help fight raging wildfires in the Amazon. The chief of staff to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tells a Brazilian newspaper they're thankful but the money would be better served to help reforest Europe.

He also took a shot at French President Emmanuel Macron saying he couldn't prevent the disastrous fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, and he has plenty to deal with back in France.

Bolsonaro himself also drawing the ire of Macron for much different reasons.

Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us in Brazil -- Nick.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Jair Bolsonaro seemed to take a break from engaging in what seemed to be a spat on social media with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. He'd commented on an offensive meme about the French president's wife, which caused the French president to talk about how he hoped Brazil eventually would have a president that lives up to the job.

But, President Bolsonaro, in terms of that suggestion of $20 million, didn't seem that receptive. He talked about how it was down to Brazil to resist such colonial attitudes and it wasn't down for the French president to really tell him what to do. And they engaged in a very lengthy tirade against the media here.

There's a lot of information more happening about how serious this problem is. Independent scientists, like NASA, who have got their ax to grind with Brazil are clear this is bad and it's nearly twice as bad in terms of fires so far this year than last year.

But does Brazil, itself, have the will -- does it have the resources to start tackling the fires on the scale that we saw just two days ago? It is startling to see that. And here, we occasionally see the cargo planes in the sky that seem to be on their way to tackle things.

But, Brazil thinks it can deal with it by itself. It's allowed Israeli help in, possibly soon, but it's unclear if it will allow the international community's outrage to influence who it allows in to assist with this massive firefighting operation here.

The fires are continuing to burn. International condemnation -- will it persist and will the pressure persist after the G7 now that it's over? We'll have to wait and see. The fires aren't stopping though -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Nick for us in Brazil, thank you for that.

Breaking overnight, two children killed in Dayton, Ohio, in a bizarre incident involving a stolen police cruiser. Officers were responding to a stabbing call last night shortly after 7:00 p.m. Now, the suspect had fled and police say moments later crashed into a tree. He then stole a responding officer's cruiser and fled again, crashing into several cars outside the Dayton public library.


LT. COL. ERIC HENDERSON, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, DAYTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, DAYTON, OHIO: There were at least 11 removals from those other two vehicles to several different hospitals.


BRIGGS: Seven of those victims were children, two later died. The suspect is in custody. Two police officers suffered minor injuries. All of this coming less than a month after that mass shooting in Dayton that killed nine people.

ROMANS: All right. To business now. Company executives are cashing in their stock as doubts grow about the longest bull market in American history. So-called corporate insiders selling an average of $600 million of stock per day this month, that's according to Trim Tabs Investment Research. August on track to be the fifth month this year where insider selling tops $10 billion. Last time that happened 2006-2007 before the financial crisis.

Insider buying and selling, of course, is a proxy for confidence. The increase in insider selling stock suggests concern about challenges ahead, notably U.S.-China trade war and mounting recession worries. Those fears have yanked stocks higher and lower on each trade and recession headline, the S&P 500 still up 14 percent this year, but it's 5 percent down from its record high.

Insider selling does not always mean a lack of confidence we should point out. Executives may sell stock to raise money, for example, to pay taxes. Still notable, though, this is the most insider sales during this bull market.

BRIGGS: OK. Indonesia's capital sinking. Why and what Jakarta's officials are planning to do.


[05:14:15] BRIGGS: Indonesia is planning to move its capital to the sparsely populated island of Borneo because its current capital is sinking. Forty percent of Jakarta, population almost 10 million, is now below sea level. Some areas are reportedly sinking as much as 7 to 8 inches per year thanks to pumping too much groundwater and the climate crisis.

If parliament approves the $33 billion plan construction on the new capital would begin next year with the move happening in 2024. The majority of residents in the commercial and financial hub would stay put.

ROMANS: All right. Four Florida nursing home employees facing charges in the deaths of 12 residents who were exposed to extreme heat in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Jorge Carballo, former administrator and CEO at the Hollywood rehab center and three nurses were arrested Monday.

[05:15:07] Elderly residents of the home suffered in the heat for days after the facility lost power and air conditioning when Irma hit.

Family members expressing some relief.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy for what's going on and the work the police has done. And we finally have some arrests and this is just the beginning.

PEDRO FRANCO, PARENTS DIED AT FLORIDA NURSING HOME: Almost two years of, you know, waiting for something to happen. Justice is all we want.


ROMANS: Attorneys for the accused insist they did all they could under trying circumstances. The incident has led to new emergency requirements for the state's nursing homes.

BRIGGS: The Transportation Security Administration recently considered ending a program that allows pilots and flight attendants to pass through airport security check points without the physical screening passengers have to face. The TSA tells CNN it is now conducting an audit of the program to review potential insider threats and instead of terminating it, the agency decided to add new requirements to qualify. The TSA says the changes to the screening program were not the result of a specific threat.

ROMANS: All right. Police are looking for the driver who plowed through a crowd in downtown Denver.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) Oh my. Two people were slightly injured. Police have identified a suspect and said other people were in the car. It happened early Sunday as people spilled out of the entertainment venues in the lower downtown district. Before the car sped into the crowd a group of people were trying to pry open the car door. Not clear what led to that incident.


OK, ahead, Serena Williams settling an old score at the U.S. Open in very quick fashion. Andy Scholes with the "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:21:48] ROMANS: All right. You want to know who won big at last night's MTV VMAs? You need to calm down.




ROMANS: Taylor Swift winning her second Video of the Year "Moon Man" for her equality anthem "You Need to Calm Down."

But Swift was pretty fired up about why the Trump White House has not acknowledged her Equality Act petition for LGBTQ rights, which was launched with that single.


SWIFT: At the end of this video, there was a petition and there still is a petition for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. It now has half a million signatures, which -- which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.


ROMANS: The White House has yet to comment directly to Swift.

Now, the House did pass the Equality Act in May. The White House opposed it.

All right. A legendary "SNL" cast member coming home.


EDDIE MURPHY, COMEDIAN: There are lots of things you can sell on the streets. All you have to do is be an entrepreneur. That's our word for the day, boys and girls.


ROMANS: Oh my gosh, Eddie Murphy will return to host the Christmas episode of "Saturday Night Live". That's on December 21st.

It will be Murphy's first appearance on the show since he left in 1984. "SNL" season 45 kicks off September 28th with Woody Harrelson as host and Billie Eilish as the musical guest.

BRIGGS: OK, the U.S. Open under way at Flushing Meadows. Serena Williams getting a win in her opening match with Maria Sharapova.

Andy Scholes has that we brief story in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, my friend.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it wasn't a long match, Dave. Good morning to you.

Yes, this is Serena's first match at the U.S. Open since last year's controversial final which she lost to Naomi Osaka. This match would go better than that one for Serena. She made quick work of Maria Sharapova, beating her in under an hour. Serena now 20-2 against Sharapova, beating her 19 times in a row.

Now, before the tournament it was announced the chair umpire Carlos Ramos who had that incident with Serena last year would not work any of her or her sister Venus' matches.

Well, Serena was asked about Ramos last night.


REPORTER: Do you think that was a good thing or you really didn't care?

SERENA WILLLIAMS, PRO TENNIS PLAYER: Yes, I don't know who that is.


SCHOLES: All right. Well, Serena back at it again tomorrow. She will be taking on fellow American Catherine McNally.

All right. The NFL world is still reeling from Andrew Luck's decision to retire from football at the age of 29, but it's back to work for the Colts and new starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett and he says, well, it's been quite the last few days.


JACOBY BRISSETT, COLTS QUARTERBACK: It's been, you know, a rollercoaster of emotions.

[05:25:03] You know, the main thing is just, you know, not being able to see Andrew every day and that's -- you know, today was kind of weird walking in and not seeing him, but, you know, that's the thing to deal with.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Now, there weren't many Colts fans who were angry after Luck's retirement announcement, saying they wanted a refund for their season tickets.

Well, former Colts long snapper Matt Overton who now plays with the Jaguars tweeted to any angry colts season ticket holders who are seeking a refund, I would be more than happy to buy your season tickets off of you and donate them to Riley Children's patients and their families. I'm serious. All the love, Matt.

Overton, he played five seasons with Luck on the Colts, both were very involved with Riley's Children's Health in Indianapolis.

All right. Finally, according to a report by Fox Sports, U.S. women's nationals team star Carli Lloyd turned down a chance to make history. Lloyd's trainer is telling Fox that multiple teams approached Lloyd after her field goal kicking at Eagles practice went viral, one team offering Lloyd a spot on the roster kicking in Thursday's pre-season finale.

Galanis said Lloyd declined in part because the women's team have an exhibition game against Portugal on Thursday.

Dave, it certainly would be tough in my opinion to suit up in three days' time and kick in an NFL game. I mean, it's a different ball game when you have a helmet and pads on. Not saying Lloyd couldn't do it, but the timeline seems like it's a little suspect there.

BRIGGS: I agree with you. I think we could see it in our lifetime, I'd love to see it, but not in a pre-season game, not with a line coming at her, she misses and it's laughed off. Whereas if we get female kickers in college and build on this maybe at some point we could see it. That was on Female Equality Day, too.

SCHOLES: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: Romance, what's ahead.

ROMANS: So, tell me, kick like a girl is a good thing, right?

BRIGGS: Absolutely. She's got a big leg. Extra steps she took there, though, not the normal kicker steps.

ROMANS: All right. Fifty -- 26 minutes past the hour. For the very first time a drug maker is held responsible for the nationwide opioid epidemic. It could be a game changer for 2,000 other claims about to be heard.