Supreme Court Decision Makes Generic Drug Product Liability Lawsuits More Difficult

Supreme court

A June 24 ruling by the Supreme Court severely limits consumers’ ability to sue the manufacturers of generic drugs. In Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., Inc. v. Bartlett, the Court protects the makers of these drugs by removing liability for products that may harm patients.

Details of Case

The case involved a New Hampshire woman named Karen Bartlett who took Sulindac, which is a generic pain reliever made by Mutual Pharmaceuticals, for shoulder pain. Because she ingested this drug, she developed a serious skin disease called toxic epidermal necrosis.

This condition caused 60 to 65 percent of the skin on her body to either burn off or turn into an open sore. Her injuries forced her to spend 50 days in a hospital burn unit. Furthermore, Bartlett endured months of being in a medically-induced coma and was tube-fed for a year. Today she is permanently disfigured, almost blind and will require medical care for the rest of her life.

Bartlett’s doctor had originally prescribed the brand name drug Clinoril for her shoulder pain. However, her pharmacist provided her with Sulindac, the generic form of the drug. Due to the life-threatening injuries that she sustained, a federal jury in New Hampshire determined that Sulindac was a dangerous generic drug and awarded Bartlett $21 million.

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed with the federal jury’s decision. But the Supreme Court reversed this conclusion in its entirety. According to the court, because Bartlett received a generic version of the drug instead of the actual brand, the manufacturer is not responsible.

What This Ruling Means

This decision means that Bartlett now has no compensation for her exorbitant medical bills and absolutely no justice for the terrible injuries caused by Sulindac. Although her current circumstances are not the result of any negligence on her part, the court’s decision guarantees that the drug manufacturer responsible for her injuries is never held accountable.

This outrageous ruling leaves every consumer vulnerable to potential dangers from generic drugs. The manufacturers of brand name drugs may be still be held liable for injuries their drugs cause. Many insurance companies will pay only for generic versions of certain prescriptions. So consumers who can’t afford the cost of brand names will have no choice but to use generics that could possibly harm them.

Need Legal Help?

When you go to your physician to treat any kind of pain, you expect that you’ll receive a drug that will heal the condition. But if you receive a generic version of the drug from the pharmacy and experience devastating injuries as a result, it’s natural to wonder whether you can ever receive justice. With the latest Supreme Court decision, your concerns are very valid. But you’re not alone. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a South Carolina defective product, contact our South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm so we can offer advice about your rights. Call 855-565-3560 or use our online form.