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This past week, the United States Supreme Court decided Wyeth v. Levine. The Court upheld a $6.7 million jury award to a musician who lost her arm because of a botched injection of an anti-nausea medication. Justice John Paul Stevens, in the court’s majority opinion, said "Food and Drug Administration oversight of drug labeling doesn’t prevent the filing of state-level consumer liability lawsuits against drug companies. "In short," Justice Stevens wrote, "Wyeth has not persuaded us that failure-to-warn claims like Levine’s obstruct the federal regulation of drug labeling."

This decision upheld the state’s ability to make laws to protect it’s citizen’s. It also provided a remedy for a severely injured person despite FDA rules. Of great additional interest was Justice Thomas’s concurrence, which advocates eliminating the type of "implied conflict pre-emption" that the Court has found in some past cases and the drug companies pushed for here. It says, "Because such a sweeping approach to pre-emption leads to the illegitimate – and thus, unconstitutional – invalidation of state laws, I can no longer assent to a doctrine that preempts state laws merely because they ‘stan[d] as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives’ of federal law as perceived by this Court."

With the past eight years being one example after another of restricted rights and protections as preemption was used to shield defendants, this case is a ray of hope for those who have been injured. Congratulations to Ms Levine, although with the loss of an arm and what she’s been though, this had to be a bittersweet victory.

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