Published October 23, 2019
OKMULGEE, Okla. — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) Attorney General Kevin Dellinger presented a statement before U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster prior to the start of the landmark federal trial over the opioid epidemic in the Northern District of Ohio, which was scheduled to begin on Monday, October 21, 2019.
Opening arguments were scheduled to start Monday, October 21, 2019 before Judge Polster. The case involves two Ohio counties (Cuyahoga and Summit Counties) that have sued six opioid distributors. The trial was set to begin this morning but early in the morning, the parties reached a $260 million settlement to avoid a trial.
On Friday October 18, prior to the start of the case, Judge Polster summoned the chief executives of the distributors, representatives of two other companies, plaintiffs’ lawyers, four state attorneys generals, and MCN Attorney General Dellinger to his courtroom. The parties were summoned in order to determine if there was a global settlement that could be reached among all the parties. Judge Polster then asked for statements from any plaintiffs wishing to make a statement. MCN Attorney General Dellinger was granted an opportunity to speak.
Dellinger asked the court and Judge Polster to remember tribes as part of a global settlement.
“We are, without a question, the most severely impacted of all communities in the United States. This devastation comes on top of centuries of displacement, oppression and neglect, all of which together make addressing the opioid epidemic in our remote communities that much more challenging,” Dellinger said.
The opioid epidemic has had severe effects in Indian Country.
According to the data cited in the MCN lawsuit, “The CDC has reported that approximately one out of every 14.5 American Indian youth aged 12 years or older used prescription opioids for non-medical purposes in 2012. This is 60 percent higher than white youths.”
MCN and the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana are the two bellwether tribes in the opioid suit in the MDL (Multi-District Litigation) before the Federal District Court in Cleveland, OH. This means these two tribes are representing their cases before the Federal District Court as a sort of demonstration case. In such cases, it is not practical to prepare every case for trial. A few cases are selected as bellwether cases and prepared for trial. They are then settled or tried and the results are used to shape the process of addressing the remaining cases.
The MCN and Blackfeet Tribe of Montana bellwether cases have not yet been set.