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Lac Du Flambeau Tribe Files Federal Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers And Distributors

Lac Courte Oreilles, Menominee, St. Croix Tribes Have Also Filed Suits

Photo of someone portioning a tray of medical pills
Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo

The Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is the latest Wisconsin tribe to file a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioid prescription drugs.

The 77-page lawsuit was filed in federal court against both drug manufacturers and stores like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS that fill prescriptions.

The lawsuit alleges the Lac Du Flambeau tribe has suffered significant costs for medical treatment, child welfare, foster care, education, addiction therapy and the care of babies born to mothers who are addicted to opioids.

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“The prescription opioids epidemic has been building for years and is a current and ongoing nuisance,” said Lac Du Flambeau President Joseph Wildcat Sr. in a news release. “While we continue to fight drug abuse … to eliminate the scourge, the Tribe seeks financial resources to adequately abate the epidemic.”

Tribal attorney Andrew Adams III of Hogen Adams told WPR that close-knit tribal communities are hit hard when individual members become addicted.

“You have to have people to have a tribal community, and when you lose people to overdose, to death, it severely impacts the cohesiveness of that tribal community,” Adams said. “People are precious, and when you lose people it has a terrible impact on the tribe.”

Adams said he has not yet determined the dollar amount of damages the tribe would seek. He is asking for a jury trial.

He claimed that drug manufacturers and distributors were deliberately targeting rural America, where many of the tribes are located.

“We all are victims of a lengthy civil conspiracy, via fraud, misrepresentation, and intentional wrongful conduct, to cause as many people as possible to use and get addicted to opioid prescription pills,” Adams said in the news release. “All in the effort to profit billions of dollars with reckless disregard of consequences of American and Native American people.”

The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians filed a lawsuit in March in Sawyer County Circuit Court against drug manufacturers and distributors.

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin have also each filed opioid lawsuits in federal court.

Drug makers have disputed the claims of other tribes, counties, states and local governments that have filed lawsuits.