Alabama Supreme Court to Reconsider Generic-Drug Laws

In January, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that makers of brand-name drugs could be held liable for any injuries stemming from their generic equivalents. In fact, on January 11, the court ruled that any consumers allegedly injured by a generic drug may bring a lawsuit against the corresponding brand-name manufacturer based on the statements found on the brand-name label.

However, last month, the Alabama Supreme Court decided to reconsider this ruling, issuing an order which stated that it would hold oral arguments during the trial in September. Pfizer, its subsidiary Wyeth Ltd. And Schwarz Pharma Inc., all requested oral arguments in a brief back in February, but the court never held the arguments before issuing its ruling.

The drug manufacturers requested the oral arguments because they wanted to argue that the court had misunderstood the U.S. Supreme Court’s Mensing decision which established these brand-name vs. generic-brand liability laws.

Michael Parini, a Pfizer official, said that “the order provides the company with its first opportunity to present oral argument before the Supreme Court of Alabama and reinforce the well-established legal principle that a business should not be held liable for a product it did not manufacture or market.”

Aside from the Alabama Supreme Court, there are only two other exceptions as to similar brand-name manufacturer liability for drugs they didn’t manufacture themselves, and that is a California state appeals court in 2008, and a Vermont federal court in 2010. The rest of the claims and allegations have been dismissed.

Although Pfizer and Schwarz argued in their briefs that Mensing was misapplied by the majority, and that state-law failure-to-warn claims against generic manufacturers are preempted by federal law, the majority pointed out that the rulings had come before Mensing, so they were handled properly.

It will be interesting to see what happens during this trial in September. For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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