On January 21, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made it clear that pharmaceutical companies who are negligent in their design or marketing of drug products will be held accountable under the law.   The drug company in Lance v. Wyeth argued that the only two bases for products liability claims were (a) impurities in the manufacturing process, and (b) inadequate labeling/warnings:  “Wyeth seeks to insulate pharmaceutical companies from liability even in situations in which a lack of due care may be manifest.”  P.27n.18.    The Supreme Court resoundingly rejected these arguments.

It noted that there is a very significant distinction between strict liability theories “where . . . the focus is exclusively on the product . . . than it is to negligence as to which the main focus is on conduct.”  P.40.  Thus, it held that “the substantive allegations are more important  than the labels.”

In a footnote zinger that reflects a judicial appreciation of Big Pharma hubris, the Court also writes that “to the degree that Wyeth is uncomfortable with our jury-based civil-justice system, its complaint is with the Pennsylvania Constitution.”  P.36n.30.


Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Opinion