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Supreme Court Reverse $21 Million Verdict: Insulates Generic Drug Manufacturers from Liability

July 09, 2013

A new decision by the Supreme Court has made it more difficult for those injured by generic drugs to obtain financial relief for their injuries.  According to a report in the USA Today, a plaintiff who suffered horrific injuries allegedly caused by a severe allergic reaction to a generic drug had a jury verdict of $21 million reversed by the nation’s highest court.  The decision may essentially insulate generic drugmakers from the majority of lawsuits brought by those injured by their pharmaceutical products.

Karen Bartlett filed the dangerous drug lawsuit after she suffered the loss of sixty percent of her skin, blindness and damage to her esophageal and lungs, which the lawsuit alleged was caused by taking the generic anti-inflammatory Sulindac® according to the recent USA Today article discussing the case.  Ms. Bartlett suffered a severe allergic reaction that necessitated she spend several months in a medically induced coma and undergo twelve separate eye surgeries.

Although the Supreme Court’s 5-4 opinion characterized the severe injury as arising out of tragic circumstances, the court found that federal law pre-empted state law and reversed the lower court.  Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the brand name drug, the generic manufacturers could not be held liable for what the court characterized as a “particularly gruesome side effect” because the generic drug was identical in composition and labeling to the brand name drug as required by federal law.  The pro-business decision was supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Justice Department according to the report.

The dissent drafted by Justice Kagan and joined by the three other liberal justices on the Supreme Court observed that the mere fact that the FDA permitted the sale of the drug did not mean that the manufacturer was required to manufacture and market the generic drug to the public. 

This decision could force consumers to make a difficult choice between a brand name drug that may not be covered by their insurance or that may carry a hefty price tag and the decision to take one’s chances with a generic drug that causes harmful side effects or complications.   Under this decision, consumers that opt for the generic drug might be left with limited options when seeking recourse for their injuries. If you have suffered adverse side effects caused by a drug, our experienced defective pharmaceutical lawyers may be able to help you seek financial compensation from the drug company or the doctor that prescribed the medication based on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation.

If you or a family member have experienced serious adverse effects caused by a drug or medical product, our Atlanta personal injury lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.