Federal law does not pre-empt state law tort claim, U.S. Supreme Court holds

By Michael (Sam) Sandmire
March 4, 2009

In an opinion long-awaited in product liability circles, the U. S. Supreme Court today affirmed the Vermont Supreme Court and held that federal food and drug law does not pre-empt state law failure-to-warn tort claims. Wyeth v. Levine is a pharmaceutical case brought by a patient who was injured following administration of Wyeth's drug Phenergan.  Wyeth argued that the state law claims were pre-empted because it is impossible for the company to comply with both the state law duties underlying those claims and the company's federal labeling duties.  The Court rejected that argument.  The Court also rejected Wyeth's reliance on the preamble to a 2006 regulation which declared that state law failure-to-warn claims threaten the FDA's statutorily-prescribed role.  Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.  You can find that opinion and the concurrences and dissent here .


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