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Judge admits he made $107 million mistake in deciding Johnson & Johnson opioid award

Oklahoma AG on major opioid win
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An Oklahoma judge has acknowledged making a $107 million error in determining how much drugmaker Johnson & Johnson must pay to help address the state's opioid crisis.

Following a hearing Tuesday in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, District Judge Thad Balkman said he made a mistake in his August judgment ordering the company to pay the state $572 million to address the opioid crisis. That sum included $107 million for treating babies born addicted to opioids, when in fact Balkman said the figure should be $107,000.

The correction will be reflected in a final order that he issues at a later date.

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In August, Balkman found the company responsible for helping fuel the state's opioid crisis by aggressively marketing its drugs. The state had asked for $17 billion to compensate for the deaths of more than 4,000 residents over the past 20 years.

But attorneys at Johnson & Johnson argued at the time that the Oklahoma judge had made a mistake in calculating the judgment. The drugmaker maintained the miscalculation resulted in the amount the judge awarded for the costs to the state for developing and disseminating information on treating babies born addicted to opioids. The cost of these services should have been about $107,000, not $107 million, attorneys wrote.

"No evidence supports this higher amount, which appears simply to reflect a mistaken addition of three zeros to the calculation of the annual average, yet the state's proposed judgment fails to account for this discrepancy," the filing states.

Johnson & Johnson separately appealed the court's ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing that Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman's ruling was an unprecedented interpretation of the state's public nuisance law. 

The drugmaker also asked for a reduction in the judgment based on pre-trial settlements totaling $355 million that the state reached with Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma and Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

The pharmaceutical company earlier this month reached a settlement for more than $20 million with two Ohio counties. It faces more than 2,000 lawsuits over the opioid epidemic.

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