In a ruling that could have an national impact on dangerous drugs litigation, the Alabama Supreme Court has found that residents who are harmed by taking the generic version of a defective drug can seek compensation from the drug's original maker. The ruling is based on how warning labels on medication works and a fairly unique Alabama state law.
In general, generic drug makers are required to put the same warning labels on their packaging as the name-brand manufacturer. In a 2011 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that since generics companies have no control over their warning labels, they cannot be held liable for failing to warn patients about their drugs' possible side effects.
The Alabama Supreme Court ruling is based in part on a state law that hold that a third party to product liability lawsuits can be held liable it the third party gave false or misleading information that led to the plaintiff's injuries. In the case the state's top court heard, the plaintiff was taking generic versions of Reglan, an acid reflux medication, when he developed tardive dyskinesia, a disorder that causes involuntary body movements. The condition was later found to have been caused by the drugs.
He filed suit in federal court against the companies that made the generic Reglan and Wyeth, which makes the original drug. The federal court sent the Alabama Supreme Court the question of whether Wyeth could be sued. The decision allows the plaintiff to continue to pursue damages against the drugmaker, which is now a subsidiary of Pfizer.
An attorney for Pfizer said that most courts in other states have not allowed litigation against the original drug maker in similar cases, though similar rulings have been made at least a couple of times.
Source: The New York Times, "Man Taking Generic Drug Can Sue Branded Maker," Katie Thomas, Jan. 11, 2013
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