Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Macro of oxycodone opioid tablets

Swinomish Tribe Files RICO Opioids Lawsuit in Federal Court Against Pharmaceutical Giants

Action seeks justice against opiate drug manufacturers and distributors for Swinomish Tribe opioid deaths in Washington State

On behalf of northwestern Washington’s Swinomish Tribe, Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel have filed a RICO racketeering lawsuit in federal court in Seattle against a wide range of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors alleged to be responsible for the explosive opioid epidemic across the United States and on the Swinomish Reservation. The tribe’s complaint alleges these companies convinced patients, hospitals, and physicians that opioids were safe for long-term use, despite significant evidence indicating the drugs are relatively ineffective in treating chronic pain, as well as being highly addictive.

“We have been holding funerals while these companies reap record profits,” said Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. “It’s time they are held accountable for the destruction they’ve caused in the Swinomish community.” Disturbingly, federal data indicates that Native Americans are twice as likely to overdoes from opioids than the general population or any other racial demographic.

The complaint alleges that the numerous defendants worked to conceal critical facts about the dangers of opioids and the costs to communities, such as that of Washington’s Swinomish Tribe. The complaint also alleges public nuisance, false advertising, and participation in unfair, unlawful, and/or fraudulent business practices.

The Swinomish Indian Reservation is located on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, Washington, one of America’s regions hit hardest by the opioid crisis. According to the CDC, Washington is the only Western state that saw a statistically significant increase in overdose death rates between 2014 and 2015. In Skagit County, where the Swinomish Reservation is located, the rate of opioid deaths is even higher than the State average.

More than 90 people in the U.S. die every day from opioid drug overdoses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in 2016 alone opiates killed 42,000 US citizens, a figure that includes disproportionately high numbers of Native Americans. In March 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced the results of a year-long study that showed commonly prescribed opioids produced less pain relief than non-opioid over-the-counter drugs in patients suffering from serious back pain as well as knee or hip arthritis.

Read a copy of the Swinomish Tribe’s complaint.

About Lieff Cabraser

Recognized as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms” by The American Lawyer and as a “Plaintiffs’ Powerhouse” by Law360, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a 70-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Seattle. Lieff Cabraser has filed other similar opioid-related cases on behalf several counties and cities within Tennessee and outside of Tennessee in opioids-related litigation. Our firm has successfully represented tens of thousands of injured individuals in complex and mass tort litigation, and thousands of patients across America in individual lawsuits over the injuries they suffered from defective prescription drugs. Five times in the last seven years, U.S. News and Best Lawyers have named Lieff Cabraser as their “Law Firm of the Year” for representing plaintiffs in class actions and mass torts.