The historic Cherokee Nation capitol building in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, houses the tribal judicial branch. Photo: Caleb Long
Health | Law | National

Cherokee Nation ready to move forward with opioid lawsuit in tribal court system

The Cherokee Nation is ready to proceed with a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry, the tribe's top legal official said.

A lawsuit filed in tribal court accuses some of the largest drug companies and drug stores in the United States of contributing to an opioid epidemic on Cherokee territory in northeastern Oklahoma. But the case has been stayed for 90 days, Attorney General Todd Hembree told The Tahlequah Daily Press.

The tribe agreed to a temporary stay because the non-Indian defendants believe they aren't subject to Cherokee jurisdiction. They have filed a separate lawsuit in federal court to address that issue.

If a decision isn't reached within the stay period, Hembree will move forward with the tribal case.

"At the end of the 90th day, if we don't have a decision from the federal court, we plan on proceeding with discovery in tribal court," Hembree told the paper.

The tribal lawsuit is Cherokee Nation v. McKesson Corp. The stay was granted on June 27 so it's due to expire on September 25.

The federal court case is McKesson Corp. v. Hembree. The complaint was filed on June 8 and Hembree told The Daily Press that he expects a decision on jurisdiction to be issued within the stay period.

Read More on the Story:
Tribal AG says opioid case is not going away (The Tahlequah Daily Press August 9, 2017)

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Cherokee Nation details devastating impacts of opioid crisis in Oklahoma (July 25, 2017)
Cherokee Nation blames pharmaceutical industry for opioid crisis (April 20, 2017)