Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Developments in ATS Suit against Pfizer

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently reinstated a lawsuit brought by Nigerian families against the U.S. phramaceutical company, Pfizer, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. sec. 1350.  In Rabi Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Nigerian parents and guardians allege that during a 1996 outbreak of bacterial meningitis in Nigeria, Pfizer tested an unapproved and experimental antibiotic called Trovan on Nigerian children without their knowledge or consent. The families further allege that several children died and many more suffered serious side effects as a result of exposure to Trovan.  They assert that Pfizer's conduct constituted a tort in violation of the law of nations under the ATS.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had dismissed the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction under ATS and forum non conveniens.  The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case back to the District Court because it found that the lower court had incorrectly determined that the prohibition in customary international law against nonconsenual human medical experimentation cannot be enforced under the ATS.  The Court of Appeals reviewed the state of conventional and customary international law regarding medical experimentation and found that there exists a sufficiently specific, universal and obligatory international law norm prohibiting such conduct.  The Appellate Court also held that changed circumstances in Nigeria required a reexamination of the forum non conveniens issue.  The decision of U.S. Court of Appeals can be found by clicking here.



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