Justices Reject Limits on Drug Lawsuits

Ruling makes pharma responsible for labels
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2009 1:59 PM CST
Diana Levine walks with her attorney David Frederick as they leave Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Nov. 3, 2008.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – In a strong blow to drugmakers, the Supreme Court ruled today in favor of a Vermont woman who lost her arm after taking an anti-nausea drug made by Wyeth, the Wall Street Journal reports. The court upheld the ruling of a Vermont court that awarded guitarist Diana Levine $6.7 million in damages, after a push-IV injection of Phenergan gave her gangrene.

Wyeth had claimed that the FDA approval of Phenergan's warning label protected Wyeth from legal action, but the Supreme Court ruling—which included an unusual liberal vote from Justice Clarence Thomas—stated that the FDA’s purpose was not to invalidate state laws on pharmaceuticals. "Congress has repeatedly declined to preempt state law," said Justice Stevens in the majority opinion.