This is the so-called First Monday at the United States Supreme Court; the day the fall term opens and this term has two major cases from Vermont. We told you last week of the criminal case, but the civil case has implications for regular citizens across the country.
This case stems from a lawsuit brought by Diana Levine, of Plainfield. A pianist and professional musician, she has won $7 million from Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories in a civil suit. She claims doctors improperly administered her drugs intravenously made by that company when she was suffering from nausea. As a result, gangrene set in and the lower half of her right arm had to be amputated.
Wyeth claims the FDA approved its drugs and its instructions.
"What's at issue in this is whether or not people like Diana Levine who were injured by a drug can sue in state court for the injuries the drug caused, even when the FDA has said the use of the drug is ok. So the real question is whether federal law can trump state law," explained legal expert Cheryl Hanna, of the Vermont Law School.
Hanna said it's unusual because the Supreme Court asked the Justice Department to weigh in on the Wyeth case.
"That's right, it's not usual the Supreme Court will say, so solicitor general-- what do you think?"
Hanna said, "And for the first time the administration weighed in on the side of the pharmaceutical companies and said this is an issue the court should take on... this case. And I think because of that, the court-- at least four members of it-- are likely to find in favor of the pharmaceuticals."
Hanna said if that is the case, it will drastically affect such patient cases across the country.
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