Attorney General Mike Hunter joining Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby (left) and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton to announce the tribes' lawsuit against opioid manufacturers
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today joined Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton in support of lawsuits separately filed by the two tribes against the nation’s leading manufacturers of opioids.
In similar filings in state court, the tribes claim the decades of deceptive marketing by the companies led to the ongoing public health crisis that continues to claim the lives of men and women across the state and tribal nations.
Attorney General Hunter said the state stands by the tribes’ decision to sue.
“Opioid manufacturers are the root cause of the ongoing epidemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “These companies knew the addictive qualities of opioids and still preyed on the suffering of Americans for decades. “The state is ready to work closely with our tribal partners to ensure success in both the tribes' and state’s lawsuits. They chose the most qualified law firm to handle the cases with the two very best attorneys in Judge Michael Burrage and Reggie Whitten. These two men have suffered personally from the epidemic and they will pour their hearts and souls into this case.”
Native American communities across the nation have suffered overwhelming numbers of overdose deaths throughout the ongoing epidemic. Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show between 1999 and 2015, overdose deaths among Native Americans and native Alaskans rose by more than 500 percent.
“The number of Native American deaths across the country that are being fueled by the opioid epidemic is staggering,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “Families are being torn apart and our children are being born addicted as a result. We will hold these companies accountable for the devastation they have caused our tribes. We appreciate Attorney General Hunter’s support in our efforts.”
Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said the oversupply and deceptive marketing by the companies continue to devastate his tribe.
“The members of the Choctaw Nation have suffered unimaginably, while these companies have made billions of dollars,” Chief Batton said. “With these lawsuits, we look to recoup the damages the companies inflicted upon our tribes and end this scourge of death and addiction. We thank Attorney General Hunter for his leadership through the state’s lawsuit and for standing side-by-side with us as we seek justice.”
Former Federal Judge Michael Burrage, of the Whitten Burrage Law Firm said the state’s case and the two tribal cases are similar in what they allege.
“Despite knowing what they were doing to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, the defendants continued to pump thousands of addictive drugs into these proud communities, leaving behind death and destruction,” Burrage said. “Our cause in these two lawsuits are aligned with those in the state’s - to hold these companies liable for the damages caused to our friends, families and loved ones.”
The Chickasaw lawsuit was filed in Pontotoc County, while the Choctaw lawsuit was filed in Bryan County, each county where the respective tribal headquarters are located.
To read the Chickasaw Nation’s lawsuit, click here.
To read the Choctaw Nation’s lawsuit, click here.