Robins Kaplan LLP Announces Proposed Opioid Settlement For Its Tribal Nation Clients

Firm’s American Indian Law and Policy and Mass Tort Groups Represent 28 Tribal Nations in the National Opioid Litigation

February 1, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN/BISMARCK, ND/SIOUX FALLS, SD — February 1, 2022—Robins Kaplan LLP announces a proposed $439 million settlement of the national opioid litigation claims by Tribes brought against AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc. (“Distributors”) and a proposed $150 million settlement of the national opioid litigation claims by Tribes brought against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. N/K/A Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., N/K/A Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Janssen”).  The proposed settlement, which must be agreed to by the sovereign governments of Tribes, comes at a critical time to address the addiction and prevention needs of residents, as drug overdose deaths in the U.S. rose nearly 30 percent in 2020, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Janssen has agreed to resolve the Tribal claims for $150,000,000, payable over two years. The Distributors resolved the Tribal claims for $439,964,500, payable over seven years.  These two settlements are initial, partial settlements as Tribal opioid claims against several other Defendants remain pending in the consolidated Multi-District Litigation venued in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio.

“This initial settlement for Tribes in the national opioid litigation is a crucial first step in delivering some measure of justice to the Tribes and reservation communities across the United States that have been ground zero for the opioid epidemic,” said Tara Sutton, Chair of Robins Kaplan LLP’s Mass Tort Group. Ms. Sutton acted as one of the negotiators for the plaintiffs' Tribal Leadership Committee in the negotiations with the settling Distributors.

Chairman Douglas Yankton of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota welcomed this first opioid litigation settlement noting, “American Indians have suffered the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose and are more likely than other group in the United States to die from drug-induced deaths. Given this, the dollars that will flow to Tribes under this initial settlement will help fund crucial, on-reservation, culturally appropriate opioid treatment services.”

Tim Purdon, the Co-Chair of Robins Kaplan LLP’s American Indian Law and Policy Group, added, “At Robins Kaplan, we were one of the first to identify the opportunity for Tribes to exercise their sovereignty by bringing suit, just as State Attorneys General did, against the companies that created and drove the opioid epidemic. This is the first time in history that Tribal Nations in these numbers have participated in nationwide mass tort litigation at this scale.” The Robins Kaplan LLP American Indian Law and Policy Group was co-founded by Purdon, the former United States Attorney for North Dakota and Brendan Johnson, the former United States Attorney in South Dakota when the two joined the firm in 2015.

The court appointed Tribal Leadership Committee on which Robins Kaplan LLP serves and the settling Defendants have entered into settlement Term Sheets summarizing their agreements and are in the process of drafting definitive settlement agreements. All federally recognized Tribes will receive notice of how they may participate in both settlements. All federally recognized Tribes will be eligible to participate in both settlements regardless of whether the Tribe has previously filed suit against the Settling Defendants.

Tara D. Sutton

Partner

Chair, National Mass Tort Group;
Member of Executive Board

Timothy Q. Purdon

Partner

Co-Chair, American Indian Law and Policy Group;
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group;
Co-Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Brendan V. Johnson

Partner

Co-Chair, American Indian Law and Policy Group;
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group
Member of the Executive Board

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