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U.S. Supreme Court - Where Big Business Wins and the Injured Lose

Wednesday, July 24, 2013By Richard Alexander
United States Supreme Court: Citizens UnitedBy Richard Alexander

For years no institution has held the confidence of a majority of the American population, except the Supreme Court. For years the public believed that the Supreme Court was the voice of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which allows big business unfettered rights to unleash millions of dollars for political candidates and lobbying, is starting to change the public view of the Supreme Court.

Since the beginning of the country when Justice John Marshall wrote Marbury v. Madison, we have accepted the rule that the Supreme Court can overrule acts of Congress.

Currently the Supreme Court has pushed itself beyond that limit.

Today the Court decides what it believes is good public policy, creates a rule and applies it to the case before it, often on 5-4 decisions.

It is hard to respect the Supreme Court as an institution when five separate and irreconcilable theories reach a conclusion that becomes the law, even though there are four dissents. That is especially the case when much of this decision-making is not in the interests of protecting the weak and the injured, but in the interest of big business avoiding accountability and paying the bill for the damage it has caused.

Here are some examples of Supreme Court decisions that are not good for you unless you are a drug or medical device manufacturer.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February, 2008 in the case of Reigel v. Medtronic that medical device manufacturers were insulated from being held accountable in state courts for personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by their products.

Current law supports the right of an injured person to sue drug manufacturers for personal injuries caused by a manufacturer’s concealment of adverse reports or promotion of “off label” use with serious side effects. However, Reigel holds that state laws allowing injured people to sue when injured by a defective product do not apply, and those cases must be thrown out of court once the manufacturer has obtained Food and Drug Administration Pre-Market Approval.

The court’s decision relied on the FDA’s alleged role as the sole protector of the citizens, ignoring the FDA’s obvious ineffectiveness and fumbling attempts to supervise a number of medical devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers, stents and morphogenetic proteins, such as InFuse used in spinal surgeries, that have injured innocent patients.

Drug manufacturers similarly rely heavily on the protection of the FDA when products are mislabeled, arguing that such cases must be preempted, nullified and dismissed, because the content of any label is exclusively controlled by the FDA. This defense has been used even when the manufacturer has not complied with federal regulations.

In 2011, the decision in Pilva v Mensing held that generic drug manufacturers were protected from lawsuits filed on behalf of people injured by side-effects of prescription medications—even if the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings.

On June 24, 2013, the Court once again ruled that injured medical patients were not allowed to sue in state courts after suffering injuries. In the case of Mutual Pharmaceutical Company v Bartlett, taking general pain medications led to the disfigurement of a woman. Under the ruling, this woman, or anyone in the future, will not be allowed to sue the makers of generic drugs for flaws in the product design.

Generic drugs make up approximately 80 percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States. The Supreme Court has given generic drug manufacturers a free ticket that they do not deserve to avoid accountability and places profits over the injured.

These Supreme Court decisions in favor of medical manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies make it clear that today’s legal system fails to protect the injured and supports profits before people.

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