Court declines to bar state tort actions over FDA-approved drugs

supremeleftIn one of the most significant cases for the trial bar this term, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that FDA approval of a drug does not automatically bar state law tort suits against the drugmaker.

The decision in Wyeth v. Levine was announced this morning by the Court, which by a 6-3 vote affirmed a Vermont state ruling upholding a jury verdict for a Vermont woman who lost an arm after being intravenously administered an anti-nausea medication.

The court held that, contrary to drugmaker Wyeth’s argument, it is possible to adhere to standards imposed by the Food and Drug Administration as well as those established by state law.

stevenssmile“Wyeth could have added a warning [that certain intravenous uses for the drug posed hazards] and this would have complied with both the state law and federal law duties,” Justice John Paul Stevens, who authored the opinion, said from the bench this morning.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Jr. dissented.

More on the case, including reaction from the parties and from members of the trial bar, to come soon on DC Dicta and on


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