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Company claims Oklahoma judge miscalculated opioid award

By SEAN MURPHYOctober 2, 2019
FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019 file photo, Judge Thad Balkman reads a summary of his decision in the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. Balkman ruled in favor of the state of Oklahoma and ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. Balkman made a $107 million miscalculation when he ordered consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to help clean up the state's opioid crisis, attorneys for the company argue in a court filing. (Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP, Pool)
FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019 file photo, Judge Thad Balkman reads a summary of his decision in the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. Balkman ruled in favor of the state of Oklahoma and ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $572 million to a plan to abate the opioid crisis. Balkman made a $107 million miscalculation when he ordered consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to help clean up the state's opioid crisis, attorneys for the company argue in a court filing. (Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP, Pool)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge made a $107 million miscalculation when he ordered consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to help clean up the state’s opioid crisis, attorneys for the company argue in a court filing.

The company also is asking 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 Ltd.

The company has 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.

A spokesman for Attorney General Mike Hunter declined to comment on the filing.

“Given the pending matter both before Judge Balkman and the Supreme Court, we aren’t going to comment outside of what has been filed with the courts at this time,” said spokesman Alex Gerszewski.

Johnson & Johnson maintains 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.

The company’s request for a reduced award was outlined in its response to the state’s proposed final judgment. In that proposal, the state asks the court to immediately order the company to pay the entire $572 million award to its attorneys. The state also maintains the court could order the company to pay even more to abate the opioid crisis in future years.

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