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Manufacturers' responsibility in product liability

Consumers expect companies to uphold a certain standard of quality and care. Unfortunately, not every company hits the mark, and this negligence can sometimes lead to serious issues.

In certain instances, it may be possible to successfully argue a product liability case. However, understanding the liability level of a manufacturer is important.

Recent case

On May 11, 2018, the Supreme Court decided not to expand the product liability law in West Virginia in regards to the case of McNair v. Johnson & Johnson et al. In the case, claimants asserted that the brand name manufacturer should owe a duty to consumers to warn against drugs from generic manufacturers. The original drug producer was a subsidiary of the brand name company that omitted possible side effects in its warning label, which generic brands use. In this manner, the claimants deemed the lack of warning as negligence.

Innovator liability

Innovator liability served as the claim's basis. In short, innovator liability occurs when a brand name drug manufacturer bears responsibility for injuries, including serious injury or death, allegedly caused by drugs from a generic manufacturer. Along with West Virginia, the federal circuit courts that have addressed this question in several other states deny innovator liability, affirming that a brand name manufacturer does not owe any duty of care to another manufacturer's patrons.

The future

Between the limited state product liability laws and such rulings, consumers have limited recourse for manufacturer's negligent acts. Unless parties can make clear  between the product manufacturer's acts and the damage results, the chances of a successful claim may be slim. However, this does not mean that parties should not try to hold manufacturers responsible for their actions.

Though it appears to be a hard battle, it may be worth it for some. To aid in the process, it may be beneficial to consult with a professional and become familiar with state product liability laws.

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