In a highly anticipated decision, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that drug manufacturers are not shielded from personal injury lawsuits by implied preemption. The case, Wyeth v. Levine, involved a woman, Ms. Levine, who had her arm amputated after receiving an injection of Phenergan, an anti-nausea medication made by Wyeth. The drug caused gangrene in Ms. Levine’s arm. Ms. Levine filed a state court lawsuit and was awarded a $6.7 million verdict. She argued that Wyeth did not adequately warn of Phenergan’s risks. Wyeth argued that it should not be subject to lawsuits because it had complied with FDA labeling requirements. Wyeth’s argument was based on the theory that preemption of state law personal injury claims was implied by the federal regulatory scheme for prescription drugs. However, in a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court rejected Wyeth’s arguments and upheld the verdict in favor of Ms. Levine. The Levine ruling is in contrast with another recent Supreme Court ruling that express language in federal law preempts many state court lawsuits for injury caused by medical devices. Many manufacturers of goods were hoping that the Levine case would give them broader protection against lawsuits for injuries caused by their products. However, the ruling in Levine put a damper on those hopes to keep injured people from seeking redress in court.
The lawyers at Sheller, P.C. continue to fight for people who have been injured by pharmaceuticals, as well as defective products. Our lawyers have many years of experience successfully representing individuals and classes of individuals in cases against manufacturers. We are committed to zealous representation of our clients against companies that want to deny responsibility for harm caused by their products.