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Legislature Passes Innovator Liability Legislation

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, April 28, the Alabama House of Representatives passed SB 80, which has already been passed by the Alabama Senate.  SB80 was sponsored by State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).  The legislation overturns the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision in Weeks v. Wyeth, which Sen. Ward called an outlier. 

It costs an enormous amount of money to test a potential new drug.  To get FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approval often involves animal trials and human trials with no guarantee that the FDA will give that approval.  Once approved the pharmaceutical company only has a few years to make that money back before those patents expire and every drug manufacturer is allowed to make generic versions of made brand-name manufacturers liable for injuries arising from their competitors’ generic copycat products.  The United States has a bizarre legal system that allows law firms to solicit current/former users of drugs/treatments in class action law suits claiming side effects (many of which are often known from the drug trials) and sue the drug company that in many cases has extended their lives.  Weeks v. Wyeth held the original drug company liable not just for side effects of the name brand drug they sold; but also for the side effects of the generic copies of their drug, even though they received none of that revenue and have no control over the manufacturing process by the generic drug maker.  SB80 overturns that precedent.

Senator Ward said, “Today is a significant win for businesses that champion innovation and for Alabama’s continued economic development.  Innovation should not carry with it indefinite liability, especially for products that the creator never made or sold.  Unfortunately, our Supreme Court gave life to this warped theory of ‘innovator liability,’ even though nearly every other court nationwide has squarely rejected it. But the Legislature answered the call and moved swiftly to restore the settled legal principles that have helped to make Alabama’s growing manufacturing industry an engine of growth and a source of jobs for thousands of Alabamians.”

The Alabama Senate passed SB80 by a 32-0 margin, and the House by a 86-14 margin.  Representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) sponsored the House companion bill, HB 110.

Historically Alabama has been considered to be one of the worst states for companies due to tort laws here.  The legislature, especially since 2010, has worked to make the laws a little more friendly for defendants and their insurance companies.

SB80 now goes to the Governor for his signature.

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