June 27, 2007
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Preemption Decision Regarding Medical Devices
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the Second Circuit's determination in Reigel v. Medtronic that federal regulation of medical devices, particulaly when done through the stringent pre-market approval process, generally preempts state products liability claims. The suit arose when a ballon catheter burst during Reigel's angioplasty. The Second Circuit's opinion, which is in line with most federal cases which have considered this issue, noted that a medical device manufacturer cannot alter their products once on the market without FDA approval placing them in a difficult position if different state juries reached differing conclusions regarding the product's design. See stories in the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe.
June 21, 2007
Missouri and New Jersey Rule Out Lead Paint Nuisance Claims
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled in In re: Lead Paint Litigation that local governments cannot sue paint manufacturers for creating a public nuisance where the only allegations are that the defendants made and lawfully sold a product and failed to advise of its risks. The court said that the suit was really a products liability claim and fell under the state's Product Liability Act which excludes claims for exposure to toxic material. The public nuisance ruling is directly contrary to an earlier ruling by a Rhode Island trial court that is under review by that state's Supreme Court. Similar litigation in Ohio is on hold while the Ohio Supreme Court rules on the validity of legislation that would bar such public nuisance claims in the state. The New Jersey ruling was preceded by a decision of the Missouri Supreme Court in City of St. Louis v. Benjamin Moore, ruling that the plaintiffs in that state's lead paint litigation could not depend upon a market share liability theory to circumvent the need to specifically identify the manufacturers of the lead paint in issue. Product identification remains a requirement, said the Missouri Court, even in public nuisance claims.
June 14, 2007
Vaccine-Autism Test Case Begins
Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the first case to determine whether a combination of certain vaccines and thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative, can cause autism in children is now underway in the Court of Federal Claims. The trial will take place before three special masters who have been appointed to hear and decide the claim. The Court of Federal Claims was established in 1986 by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act which establishes a no-fault compensation program for those harmed by childhood vaccinations. Under the act, an injured person must first file a claim with this special compensation court to seek compensation from a fund that is financed by a tax on vaccines and may inititate a state court tort proceeding against a vaccine manufacturer or provider only after rejecting the judgment of the court. A surprisingly large number of autism-related claims - 5100 of them - have been filed since 1999 compared to 2700 claims for all other vaccine-related injuries since the program began. See Tony Muaro's story for Legal Times.
June 13, 2007
Judge Tosses $3 Million Verdict in Hormone Therapy Case
A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge granted a defense motion for judgment NOV as to causation in a case in which a jury had earlier awarded $3 million to the plaintiffs. Nelson v. Wyeth is one of two cases recently tried in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Complex Litigaion Center involving claims that prescription drug treatments for womens' menopausal problems, such as Wyeth's drug Prempro, have led to breast cancer or other serious health problems. In the other case, Daniel v. Wyeth, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $1.5 million in compensatory damages but the trial judge ruled that punitive damages were not warranted. That ruling has been appealed. See Asher Hawkins' article for The Legal Intelligencer.
June 11, 2007
Appeal in Arizona Case Ruling that Comparative Fault Trumps Joint & Several Liability in Products Cases
The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to review a court of appeals ruling that applied the state's comparative fault act to parties in a product's distribution chain thereby eliminating the imposition of joint and several liability on all parties in the chain. The 2006 ruling in State Farm Insurance v. Premire Manufactured Systems compared fault and then allocated damages between the seller of a defective kitchen water filter and the supplier of the filter. See Rob Luke's story in LegalNewsline.com.