Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) shares traded higher Wednesday after it reached a $20 million settlement in Ohio that keeps the consumer healthcare group out of a federal trial linked to the nation's opioid crisis.

Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $20.4 million, including damages and legal costs, to Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Oho, but admitted no culpability in a national crisis that is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people over the past two decades. The settlement follows a similar agreement with a court in Oklahoma that saw the group pay $572.1 million in damages for the misleading marketing and promotion of its Nucynta and Duragesic painkillers.

"The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation's opioid crisis," J&J said in a statement. "The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need."

Johnson & Johnson shares were marked 1.6% higher in early Wednesday trading to change hands at $132.08 each, a move that would leave the stock with a 2.4% year-to-date gain, well shy of the 12.1% advance for the broader Dow Jones Industrial Average benchmark. 

Last month, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and said it had reached a tentative agreement to settle lawsuits brought by attorneys general in 24 U.S. states, and well as similar actions filed by legal counsels in 2,000 cites and counties around the country that it estimates will "provide more than $10 billion of value to address the opioid crisis."

Dozens of other U.S. states, however, as well as many other private and public plantiffs, have declined to participate in the proposed settlement, leaving Purdue and its controlling Sackler family liable for billions more in judgements should the various suits, linked to the breadth and depth of the opioid crisis, eventually succeed.