S.B. 648 – North Carolina Measure to Restrict Product Liability Lawsuits Fails

Imagine a bill that would grant unprecedented immunity to product manufacturers who obtain the approval of any federal regulator. Multibillion-dollar companies would face virtually no accountability for the products they put on the market, so long as it was rubber-stamped by an understaffed government office first – no matter how much harm that product caused.
That was exactly the measure that was weighed here in North Carolina three years ago, pushed hard by the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America lobbyists.

Our Charlotte personal injury lawyers weren’t the only ones relieved when it finally died in committee. However, it reared its ugly head again this spring in the form of Senate Bill 648. Once again, representatives from the PRMA were pushing it hard.

Just like in latter versions of the 2011 bill, the newest version protected only drug manufacturers. Despite skepticism from Senate judiciary members, the bill began whipping through Senate committees at an alarming pace.

However, it seems legislators have finally once again decided to shelve the matter – for now.

Supporters of the measure insist this would have shielded local drug makers from the crippling financial impact of lawsuits that arise. However, we are not talking about mom-and-pop operations, here.

For example, GlaxoSmithKline is based in North Carolina. This drug maker is a multibillion dollar company. In fact, this state is home to numerous drug makers.

When the bill was first unveiled, it was clear that the provisions contained within were some of the most severe in the country, and effectively would have barred the citizens of North Carolina from recovering any damages whatsoever for harm suffered as a result of careless drug manufacturers. Where is the accountability? If drug makers know they won’t suffer consequences and oversight from the courts, what motivation is there to ensure quality to the consumers?

In the end, state legislators said that what gave them pause was “unintended consequences.” For example, if a drug manufacturer based in North Carolina made a dangerous product distributed it nationally and that drug harmed hundreds or thousands of people across the country, people outside the state could sue for damages as a result of that harm. However, if this bill were to pass, North Carolina residents could not.

This was the point brought up by Sen. Buck Newton, Republican Chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The question our Charlotte personal injury lawyers have: Does it matter whether a dangerous product injures 5 people or 500 people? Shouldn’t anyone who is harmed have the right to seek redress in a court of law?

What is this bill really about? Are we actually concerned that GlaxoSmithKline is on the verge of bankruptcy? Or does this have more to do with protecting the special interests than those who are hurt by the actions of careless manufacturers more intent on money than making a safe product?

While that portion of the bill did not pass, a section of it did, with language that offers protection for drug manufacturers so long as consumers were adequately warned or notified of the risk or danger. If so, and the drug maker was in compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules, the plaintiff would need to show proof the drug manufacturer didn’t act properly.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Product liability protection bill returns in NC Senate committee, May 23, 2014, By Craig Jarvis, News & Observer
You Can File Your Lawsuit Now: North Carolina Shelves Product-Liability Bill, June 13, 2014, By Ed Silverman, Wall Street Journal

More Blog Entries:
Mack v. Stryker – Pain Pump Maker Couldn’t Have Known Risks, Court Rules, May 31, 2014, Charlotte Product Liability Lawyer Blog

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