Beginning in 2017, thousands of lawsuits brought by tribal governments, cities and counties, personal injury victims and other plaintiffs against the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of prescription opioid medications were consolidated in multidistrict litigation before District Court Judge Dan Polster, in the Northern District of Ohio. Judge Polster subsequently selected a number of individual cases for “bellwether” or test trials in his court, including two tribal bellwether cases. In his case management order setting the briefing schedule for motions to dismiss in the tribal bellwether cases, Judge Polster invited all other Indian Tribes to file a consolidated amicus brief, and ordered that the Defendants’ reply briefs should respond to the amicus brief as well as Muscogee’s reply brief.
Our team at Hobbs Straus was asked to take the lead on the tribal amicus brief. We worked with a group of firms representing Tribes in the MDL to produce a brief that was ultimately filed on behalf of 448 federally recognized tribes that elected to join either in their individual capacity or through their membership in one of several inter-tribal organizations that signed on.
The tribal amicus brief is an important document within the MDL because it sets out the Tribes’ interest in the litigation. The brief makes clear that Tribes claim the right to participate in the MDL as sovereign governments, and that no other governmental entity can represent tribal interests in the context of the opioid litigation. The brief also describes the disproportionate impact tribes have experienced, putting it into the proper historical context, and affirms the need for Tribes to direct remediation and abatement efforts for their citizens and communities.
The brief can be viewed in its entirety here.