Opioid Manufacturers Settle With Indigenous Tribes

A combined plaintiff group of Native American and Alaskan Native Tribes have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with a number of opioid manufacturers over their alleged role in the opioid crisis. This settlement was signed onto by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., now consolidated under Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., and Cardinal Health, Inc.

The Plaintiff’s Tribal Leadership Committee (TLC) reached separate settlement amounts with each opioid manufacturer for a combined $590 million in settlement funds. Janssen and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay $150 million over the course of two years to resolve claims filed by the tribal nations, while AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health have agreed to resolve claims for $439,964,500 over the course of seven years. These settlements will not affect a separate settlement with the Cherokee Nation for over $75 million.

According to the court’s notice, “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.”

Also according to the notice, “American Indians have suffered the highest per capita rate of opioid overdoses” and this settlement will allow these groups to build systems to support patients who have become addicted to opioids and prevent future overdoses.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) has named Special Master David Cohen as trust administrator for the settlement proceedings, according to Law360. Additionally, Judge Polster has appointed Judge Layn Phillips to work with David Cohen to help decide the allocation of funds. Other individuals appointed to oversee the trust include former Indian Health Service Director Mary Smith, and dean of the University of Iowa College of Law, Kevin Washburn.

Although these settlements will allow communities to mitigate the costs associated with the opioid epidemic, the companies do not have to admit liability for their actions.

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