Robins Kaplan LLP Announces Major 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

November 15, 2022

Robins Kaplan LLP announced a proposed $77.9 million settlement of the pending national opioid litigation claims by Tribes brought against Wal-Mart.

The proposed settlement, which must be agreed to by the sovereign governments of the Tribes, is the latest major settlement of Tribal opioid claims in the Ohio-based federal Multi-District Litigation. It follows the February 1, 2022, $598,000,000 settlements between Tribes and AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc. and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson. The value of settlement and bankruptcy claims by Tribes against major opioid manufactures, distributors and chain pharmacies now exceeds $1 billion. 

“The Wal-Mart settlement moves the total amount of opioid settlement and possible bankruptcy court payment dollars to Tribes to well over $1,000,000,000. These are truly remarkable amounts given that Tribes had to start this litigation by fighting to secure even a seat at the table in the negotiations,” said Tara Sutton, Chair of Robins Kaplan LLP’s Mass Tort Group. Ms. Sutton has acted as one of the negotiators for the plaintiffs' Tribal Leadership Committee in the negotiations with various Parties.

Chairman Douglas Yankton of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota welcomed the announcement of this additional opioid litigation settlement, noting, “These additional settlement dollars are crucial as Tribes work to abate the opioid epidemic on our Reservations through culturally appropriate opioid treatment services. American Indians have suffered the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose and are more likely than other groups in the United States to die from drug-induced deaths.”

Tim Purdon, the Co-Chair of Robins Kaplan LLP’s American Indian Law and Policy Group, added, “At Robins Kaplan, we are always on the lookout for new legal strategies for the Tribes we represent. We are proud of the fact that Robins Kaplan was one of the first law firms to file lawsuits in early 2018 on behalf of Tribes against the companies that created and drove the opioid epidemic just as State Attorneys General did. The result is now well over $1 billion to help Tribes abate the opioid crisis on the Reservations.”

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.

“These opioid settlements are being well received by Tribes across the Country. For example, over ninety-five percent of litigating Tribes have opted into the Johnson & Johnson settlement and we are expecting similar participation numbers in the settlements with AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health as well,” said Brendan Johnson, Co-Chair of Robins Kaplan LLP’s American Indian Law and Policy Group.

The court-appointed Tribal Leadership Committee on which Robins Kaplan LLP serves and Wal-Mart are in the process of drafting definitive settlement agreements. All federally recognized Tribes will receive notice of how they may participate in these settlements. All federally recognized Tribes will be eligible to participate in these settlements regardless of whether the Tribe has previously filed suit in the Tribal Opioid MDL.

Timothy Q. Purdon

Partner

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

Brendan V. Johnson

Partner

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

Tara D. Sutton

Partner

Chair, National Mass Tort Group;
Member of Executive Board

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