The opioid epidemic is twice as bad in American Indian areas than in the country at large, according to some estimates. This crisis has not just wrecked lives and families. It has also devastated entire areas. Communities which were barely holding things together have been forced to cope with a crisis much worse than any fire, hurricane, or other natural disaster.
At Napoli Shkolnik, our American Indian tribe opioid abuse lawyers are committed to total recovery for all victims. While politicians wring their hands and other law firms wonder what to do, our innovative attorneys have taken the lead in this area. We offer effective, outside-the-box solutions for individuals, families, and communities. We approach all these situations the same way, with diligent and ethical legal representation.
What Caused the Opioid Crisis?
In the 1980s, a seemingly-innocuous letter appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. A group of doctors opined that Oxycontin and other opioid pain relievers were not addictive in most cases. Over the next several years, researchers cited this letter dozens of times as the opioid painkiller market expanded rapidly. Most of these new painkillers were many times stronger than morphine or heroin.
Many AI/AN (American Indian and Alaska Native) people already suffered from substance abuse problems. They definitely did not need an even more powerful and addictive medicine in their bathrooms.
At roughly the same time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers to market their wares directly to consumers. A disproportionate number of these ads were targeted to lower-income communities.
As is the case in so many other areas, someone else created the problem, and American Indian opioid abuse lawyers were left to clean up the mess. That’s a role that we embrace at Napoli Law.
Who is Responsible?
Many people blame individuals for the opioid crisis, and individual responsibility certainly plays a role. But the issue is deeper. Shaming victims for the opioid crisis is like giving a loaded gun to a child and then blaming the child when someone gets hurt.
Doctors, especially those who worked at illegal pill mills, bear some responsibility as well. Frequently, these physicians wrote prescriptions and did not ask many questions.
Pill manufactures also bear some responsibility. In many cases, these drug makers knowingly sold addictive products which had potentially lethal side-effects.
Particularly in AI/AN areas, drug shipping companies might be mostly responsible for the crisis. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, transportation companies have a duty to inquiry as to the purpose and need for a controlled substance in certain communities. Frequently, shipping companies ignored these responsibilities. Instead, they merely shipped drugs and cashed checks.
In 2017, Oklahoma, which has one of the highest AI/AN populations in the country, also had one of the highest painkiller prescription rates. The problem is widespread. In almost a fifth of American counties, drug shipping companies delivered enough pain pill prescriptions for every resident to have at least one.
What Are My Legal Options?
At Napoli Shkolnik, our national American Indian opioid abuse lawyers often concentrate on public nuisance claims. The elements vary in different jurisdictions. But for the most part, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant’s actions or inactions
- Created a hazardous condition
- Which adversely affected a large number of people at the same time.
Public nuisance elements are rather straightforward. However, there are a number of defenses. For example, defendants could argue that the social utility outweighed the harm. No one claims that opioid painkillers were 100 percent bad. Lack of causation might be an issue as well. A number of substances other than prescription painkillers could cause addiction.
Assumption of the risk might be a defense as well. In most cases, prescription painkiller labels at least mention the possibility of addiction and other side-effects.
So, an American Indian opioid crisis lawyer must do more than collect evidence and build a case. An attorney must also be ready to respond to these and other defenses.
In other situations, traditional approaches, such as negligence or selling a defective product, might be more appropriate. The negligence usually involves an unsafe advertising campaign that targeted certain socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, manufacturers who sell dangerous or defective products are generally liable for damages as a matter of law.
The opioid crisis hit certain communities harder than other ones. For a free consultation with an experienced American Indian opioid crisis lawyer, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.