Robins Kaplan LLP Represents Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Legal Battle Against Opioid Industry

February 13, 2018

Bismarck, ND—February 13, 2018—National trial firm Robins Kaplan LLP® announced today that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against major manufacturers and distributors of opioids, alleging devastating public-health effects on Tribal communities. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued 24 opioid-industry defendants in the action, which seeks both damages and injunctive relief.

The Robins Kaplan legal team includes Tim Purdon, former United States Attorney for North Dakota and Brendan Johnson, former United States Attorney for South Dakota. “The opioid epidemic has hit Indian County hard and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is no exception,” said Purdon. 

The 102-page complaint 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.

This is the second lawsuit filed by Robins Kaplan on behalf of American Indian Tribes against the major manufacturers and distributors of opioids. On January 9, 2018, the firm filed suit on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate against opioid manufacturers and distributors in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota.

The complaint notes that American Indians suffer the highest per capita rate of opioid overdoses and that pregnant American Indian women are more than eight times more likely to be diagnosed with opioid dependency compared to the next highest demographic; in some communities, more than one in 10 pregnant American Indian women has a diagnosis of opioid dependency.  

“Standing Rock is the fourth Tribal Nation we have filed suit for against opioid manufacturers and distributors. These Tribal Sovereigns will have their voices heard as the national opioid litigation moves forward,” added Johnson.

Johnson and Purdon serve as co-chairs of Robins Kaplan’s 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. Sutton served as trial counsel in Robins Kaplan’s landmark lawsuit that transformed the tobacco industry. The case that Robins Kaplan filed on behalf of Minnesota became the first state tobacco lawsuit to go to trial; it settled after trial for $6.6 billion.

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 in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota.

Timothy Q. Purdon


Chair, American Indian Law and Policy Group;
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group

Brendan V. Johnson


Member of Executive Board
Chair, National Business Litigation Group
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group

Tara D. Sutton


Chair, National Mass Tort Group

Back to Top