Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gearing up for Wyeth v. Levine

This morning's Wall Street Journal has a preview of the two sides and the politics involved in Wyeth v. Levine, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on November 3. Here's an excerpt of the piece by Alicia Mundy:

Corporate defense lawyers are also girding for battle. A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform said, "Pre-emption will be one of the top issues in Congress next year, and we'll be focusing significant resources on it."

Trial lawyers are expected to be heavily outspent. The chamber, which has helped drive the pre-emption and tort-reform campaign, intends to raise $40 million for political candidates this year.

The Bush administration has over the past few years circumvented Capitol Hill by weakening regulatory agencies' safety rules and adding introductions, called preambles, to public-safety regulations that effectively prohibit plaintiffs from suing at the state level, where safety standards can be tougher than those at the federal level.

Pre-empting plaintiffs' right to sue will come under the microscope in the Wyeth case. The case centers on Diana Levine, a professional guitarist who lost an arm to gangrene after a receiving a shot to treat a migraine headache in 2000.

Ms. Levine won $6.8 million in her lawsuit against Wyeth, which makes the antinausea drug, phenergan, that was given to her. A Vermont jury and that state's Supreme Court found that Wyeth hadn't sufficiently warned the public and doctors about the drug's dangers if improperly injected.


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