Cherokee Nation Suit Against Opioid Merchants
Cherokee Nation Lobbies to Pursue Opioid Case in Tribal Court
July 24, 2017
The Cherokee Nation has continued to lobby for the right to hold an upcoming lawsuit over opioid painkillers in its tribal court, arguing that its case is similar to those filed by state governments.
The Cherokee Nation’s suit is against numerous pharmaceutical merchants, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, CVS Health, McKesson, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Wal-Mart Stores. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree argues that these and other companies are partly to blame for the damage and deaths felt by Cherokee people in the current opioid epidemic, which has struck with particular force First Nations peoples.
Hembree argues that these and other companies have specifically injured the “health, welfare and economic security of the Cherokee Nation.
The defendants have claimed that tribal courts lack the jurisdiction to try the case, but Hembree cited an 1866 treaty with the federal government that endows tribal courts with “concurrent jurisdiction” over civil actions.
Hembree cited statistics from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which showed that, in 2015 and 2016, pharmacies dispensed about 184 million opioid pills within the 14 counties of the state’s Cherokee Nation. That’s the equivalent of 153 doses for each person in those counties.
The Cherokee Nation alleges that the pharmaceutical vendors have a moral and legal obligation to pay for the damage wrought by the highly addictive medications.
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