I recently attended the Maryland Association for Justice’s President’s Dinner. Besides the usual speeches by attorneys and politicians, we were given a chance to remind ourselves why what we do is worthwhile on many levels.
One of the recipients of this year’s Civil Justice Award was Diana Levine. Who’s that, you ask? Have you heard of Wyeth v. Levine? Yeah, that Levine. Ms. Levine lost an arm due to an inadequate warning label on the drug Phenergan. A Vermont jury awarded her 6 million dollars in damages. The drugmaker appealed this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The argument was that because the FDA approved the warning label, Ms. Levine’s state tort claim was preempted by federal law.
Well, they lost. Because of Ms. Levine, victims of pharmaceutical negligence can still pursue fair compensation through a claim of negligence, to be determined by a jury of ordinary citizens.
Her struggle shows the many levels on which the civil justice system can be a positive force for change. First, Ms. Levine could secure compensation for her injury. Second, Wyeth has the opportunity to change the drug labeling to protect consumers from similar occurrences. Finally, this protects consumers as a group by ensuring that drug manufacturers can not merely do the bare minimum required by the FDA and escape liability for the foreseeable consequences of negligent acts.
Miller & Zois, LLC has recently launched the drugrecalllawyerblog which may interest people injured by dangerous pharmaceutical products and their attorneys. Look there for regular updates on issues of concern in this area.