Native America tribes across the United States have struggled with drug
addiction problems for years, and now they’re pursuing legal action
to recoup costs for programs funded by the tribes to combat the epidemic
sweeping across their communities.
Domina Law is currently representing the four Native American tribes in
Nebraska in their lawsuits against the groups responsible for creating
and perpetuating the opioid epidemic, which includes pharmaceutical companies
like Walgreens, Purdue Pharma Inc., McKesson Corp., CVS, and more. David
Domina recently asserted that because the lawsuits filed by these tribes
are different from lawsuits filed on behalf of states, cities, and hospitals,
and that Native American Tribes should also have their own separate track
in this process.
"History, culture, predominant religious practices, significant health
practices, abbreviated longevity, lower average user age, elevated usage
levels, and historical problems with addictions, all make problems of
tribal governments unique," Domina wrote in a brief filed Monday.
The current groupings have placed the Native American tribes in a group
with the state of Alabama. They have until August 17 to submit a different
grouping plan to the court to be placed in what is known as a “litigation
track”, which Domina hopes will include a separate one for the tribes.
He hopes that creating this specific group will allow them to focus on
the issues that uniquely affect them. A key area that Domina said needs
to be addressed is the fact that not only are there cultural and medical
differences, most of his clients’ doctors are provided by the Indian
The federal government has already admitted that while the number of cases
is comparatively smaller, Native Americans have been disproportionally
affected by the opioid epidemic. According to Indian Health Service Chief
Medical Officer Dr. Michael Toedt, deaths increased by more than 500 percent
between 1999 and 2015, the largest spike among any ethnic group. However,
that figure only accounts for reported deaths, so the true number may
be even higher.
One of the things fueling this concern of being overlooked stems from the
fact that Native American tribes were not included in the Big Tobacco
litigation of the late 1990’s. Domina Law is committed to ensuring
this does not happen again.