Tribes Get Tentative Green Light In Opioid MDL

The majority of the claims brought by the Blackfeet Tribe and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in the opioid multidistrict litigation should be allowed to move forward, a federal magistrate judge has said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David A. Ruiz issued two reports Monday recommending trimming the tribes’ claims against drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, but concluded that the bulk of their suits should withstand defense motions to dismiss, leaving claims alleging Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act violations, negligence and nuisance in play.

The tribes accuse the manufacturer defendants, which include Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals along with generic drug companies such as Allergan, of making misleading statements about the addiction risks associated with using opioids for pain treatment.

They want to hold those companies accountable for what they say are disproportionately high rates of opioid addiction and related deaths in their communities: In 2014, Native Americans had the highest death rate from opioid overdoses out of any ethnic group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scott Gilbert, an attorney for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, told Law360 via email Tuesday that he and his team are “reviewing the magistrate judge’s recommendations with care.”

“We are pleased that he has confirmed the viability of our client’s claims against the manufacturer, distributor and pharmacy defendants,” he said. “We will continue our efforts to bring this case to an expeditious and successful conclusion, to enable the Muscogee and other tribes to address fully this crisis plaguing their nations.”

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Gilbert LLP is a Washington-based law firm specializing in litigation and strategic risk management, insurance recovery and complex dispute resolution.