Published August 22, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS — National trial firm Robins Kaplan LLP announced that it has filed lawsuits on behalf of four American Indian Tribes against major manufacturers and distributors of opioids, alleging devastating public-health effects on Tribal communities. The Prairie Island Indian Community, Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Upper Sioux Indian Community, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community have sued 24 opioid-industry defendants in the action, which seeks both damages and injunctive relief. With today’s development, Robins Kaplan has filed opioid lawsuits on behalf of fifteen American Indian Tribes this year.
The Robins Kaplan legal team includes Brendan Johnson, former United States Attorney for South Dakota, and Tim Purdon, former United States Attorney for North Dakota. “The opioid epidemic has hit Indian County hard and the four Dakota Tribes in Minnesota are no exception,” said Purdon.
The complaints filed in federal court today accuses the defendants of allegedly marketing prescription opioids in a manner that fraudulently concealed and minimized their addiction risk, and failing to comply with federal prescription drug laws intended to prevent the diversion of prescription opioids and prevent their abuse. It seeks relief for the defendants’ alleged violation of federal RICO laws, deceptive trade practices, and fraudulent and negligent conduct.
The complaint notes that American Indians suffer the highest per capita rate of opioid overdoses and that the CDC reports that one in 10 American Indian youths age 12 or older used prescription opioids for non-medical purposes in 2012, double the rate for white youth.
“The lawsuits filed today by Prairie Island, Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux and Shakopee Mdewakanton mean that their voices will be added to the other eleven Tribal Nation we have filed suit for against opioid manufacturers and distributors. These fifteen Tribal Sovereigns are ensuring that their voices are heard as the national opioid litigation moves forward,” added Johnson.
To date, Robins Kaplan LLP has filed opioid lawsuits on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (ND), the Oglala Sioux Tribe (SD), the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (SD), Flandreau Santee Sioux (SD), the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (SD), the Spirit Lake Nation (ND), the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (ND), the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (WI), the Nisqually Indian Tribe (WA), the Squaxin Island Tribe (WA), and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians (OR). These cases are all pending in the MDL in Ohio.
Johnson and Purdon serve as co-chairs of Robins Kaplan American Indian Law and Policy Group. Tara Sutton, chair of the firm’s Mass Tort Group and a member of its Executive Board, is also representing the plaintiffs.
Defendants in the case include pharmaceutical manufacturers Purdue Pharma L.P., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., and Allergan PLC, and pharmaceutical distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp. The complaint against them was filed directly into the National Multi-District Litigation Opioid Litigation in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio.