An Oklahoma judge has reduced the fine Johnson & Johnson must pay the state by $107 million after admitting to making a mathematical mistake. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman in Norman, Oklahoma had originally ruled that the company must pay $572 million for fueling the opioid epidemic through the deceptive marketing of painkillers. That has now been reduced to $465 million.
Balkman ruled in August that J&J, and its subsidiary Janis Pharmeceuticals, had willfully engaged in misleading marketing about the benefits of its painkillers, training sales representatives to tell doctors that the risk of addiction was 2.6 percent or less. He also ruled that the addictive risks of the painkillers caused a public nuisance in the form of the opioid crisis. When calculating the amount of the fine, Balkman set aside $107,683,000 to help combat neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. However, he actually meant to award only $107,683.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sought to have J&J pay $17 billion to help fund addiction treatment and other services over the next 30 years. Balkman decided to award enough money for only one year of programs. Balkman wrote in his order that despite “several of the state’s witnesses testified that the plan will take at least 20 years to work, the state did not present sufficient evidence of the amount of time and costs necessary, beyond year one, to abate the opioid crisis.”
The judge also rejected a request by the defendants for a $355 million credit, reflecting pre-trial settlements by other drugmakers with the state. The judge wrote: “Under Oklahoma law, defendants are not entitled to a settlement credit to account for the settlements entered between the state and the former defendants who settled and were dismissed, because there has been no finding of fault entered against any other potential tortfeasor, nor was any such finding requested by defendants before or during trial.”