tort law

Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht

Issues 

Is a state law failure-to-warn claim preempted when the FDA rejects a drug manufacturer’s proposed warning, or should the jury consider whether the FDA would have approved a differently worded warning?

The Supreme Court will determine whether the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) prior rejection of a drug manufacturer’s proposed warning preempts a state law failure-to-warn claim against the same manufacturer. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (“Merck”), a corporation that manufactures the drug Fosamax, argues that under the Supremacy Clause, a state law claim for failing to warn about a link between a drug and abnormal femoral fractures is precluded by the FDA’s rejection of a proposed warning about the fractures. Doris Albrecht, a consumer who took Fosamax and suffered atypical femoral fractures as a result, counters that the FDA’s rejection of the warning is not dispositive and that evidence showing that the FDA would have approved an alternative warning should be considered by a jury. The Third Circuit ruled that whether the FDA would have approved an alternative warning is a question of fact that should go to the jury. Merck is now appealing that decision in a case that will have implications for drug warnings, FDA reporting, and public health.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a state-law failure-to-warn claim is pre-empted when the Food and Drug Administration rejected the drug manufacturer's proposal to warn about the risk after being provided with the relevant scientific data, or whether such a case must go to a jury for conjecture as to why the FDA rejected the proposed warning.

Before a drug manufacturer can permanently add warnings to a drug label, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) must approve the addition. In Re Fosamax Alendronate Sodium Prods. Liab. Litig.. There are two different ways to implement this change. The first changes the label immediately and allows the FDA to review the change later. Id. at 273–74. The second requires seeking approval from the FDA before making the change.

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Dolan v. United States Postal Service

Issues 

Does the Federal Tort Claims Act's exception for "negligent transmission" of mail by employees of the United States Postal Service apply to claims of physical harm to individuals due to employee negligence in delivering mail, or is it limited to claims of mail damaged by employee negligence?

 

Petitioner Barbara Dolan sustained serious injuries when she tripped over a stack of letters, packages, and other mail that an employee of the United States Postal Service left on her porch. She sued the United States Postal Service and the United States in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the United States Postal Service employee's negligence that led to her fall made them responsible for her injuries. The district court dismissed Dolan's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and found that the "negligent transmission" exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act barred claims for physical injury, as well as those for damaged or delayed mail. In granting certiorari, the United States Supreme Court must determine the scope of the statutory exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, and whether it truly extends to "any claim" arising out of negligent transmission, including those for physical injury to individuals, or whether it is limited to claims for damaged mail.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does not this case – which involved a determination of whether the district court had jurisdiction over the claim of plaintiff when her injury was caused by the negligent placement of mail at the place of delivery – call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power where there is a dispute between the circuits of the Court of Appeals as to whether the exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. ? 2680(b) barred this lawsuit and where the Third Circuit narrowly construed the Act?

Barbara Dolan ("Dolan") was injured when she tripped over a stack of mail that a United States Postal Service ("USPS") employee had left in front of her house. Brief for the Respondents at 2.

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Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc.

Issues 

Whether 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act provides a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers from tort actions filed in state or federal court by injured victims seeking compensation for injuries allegedly arising from defectively designed vaccines.

 

After their daughter suffered severe health problems following a routine vaccination for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (“DTP”), Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz sued Wyeth, Inc., the manufacturer of the vaccine, alleging that Wyeth’s DTP vaccine was outmoded and inadequately designed. In response, Wyeth argued that Section 22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (“NCVIA”) exempted vaccine manufacturers from all design-defect claims, including the one asserted by the Bruesewitz family. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Wyeth and dismissed the claim. The Supreme Court must now determine whether to sustain the categorical preclusion of all design-defect claims advanced against vaccine manufacturers, or whether to expose vaccine manufacturers to potential design-based litigation. This decision will affect the right of vaccine victims to seek compensation for their injuries and the ability of vaccine manufacturers to avoid costly litigation that may drive them out of the vaccine market.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Third Circuit erred in holding that, contrary to its plain text and the decisions of this Court and others, section 22(b)(1) preempts all vaccine design defect claims, whether the vaccine’s side effects were unavoidable or not?

This case turns on the Supreme Court's interpretation of the word “unavoidable” as it is used in 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (“NCVIA”). See Bruesewitz v. Wyeth Inc., 561 F.3d 233, 245 (3d Cir.

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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Overview

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act is better known as CERCLA. It is codified in 42 U.S.C. Chapter 103.

Assault and Battery

Overview

Assault and battery exists in both the tort law context and the criminal law context.

Respectively, "assault" and "battery" are separate offenses. However, they often occur together, and that occurrence is referred to as "assault and battery."

Appropriation

One of several torts falling under the category of invasion_of_privacy. Appropriation occurs when a defendant uses a plaintiff's name, likeness, or image without his or her permission for commercial purposes. When a defendant uses a plaintiff's name or likeness for a newsworthy purpose, however, this does not fall under the tort of appropriation and can be used as a defense by defendants.

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