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July 1, 2013 / Alison Wilson

Supreme Court Holds that Generic Drug Makers Won’t Be Held Accountable for Product Defects

On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. Inc. v. BartlettIn the 5-4 decision, the Justices held that State-law design-defect claims that turn on the adequacy of a drug’s warnings are pre-empted by federal law.  This means that consumers who are injured by a generic drug or product cannot sue the generic drug manufacturer for their injuries, essentially shielding these manufacturers from liability.

The decision reversed a $21 million jury verdict in favor of Karen Bartlett, a New Hampshire woman who was nearly blinded and suffered horrible skin burns covering most of her body, after taking a generic pill to relieve shoulder pain.

This ruling seems to create an inconsistency in the law because people injured by brand-name drugs can sue the brand-name manufacturer, but those injured by the generic version of the same product cannot sue the generic manufacturer—effectively allowing generic drug makers to escape liability for injuries caused by their products.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented saying, “the court has left a seriously injured consumer without any remedy despite Congress’ explicit efforts to preserve state common-law liability.”

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a product, contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for more information and a free consultation regarding your possible claims.


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