Defective Drug Lawsuits: Why They Happen

Doug Mann

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Table of Contents
  1. What Makes a Drug Defective
  2. Why File a Drug Lawsuit?  
  3. Does it matter if a drug is FDA approved?
  4. Special Features of Ohio Defective Drug  Law
  5. Defective Drug Lawsuits: In a Nutshell

According to the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), 48%  of Americans have used a prescription drug in the last year. And while the vast majority benefit from taking doctor-prescribed drugs, the pharmaceuticals that people use every day are sometimes found to cause health problems that weren’t anticipated.

Like all product manufacturers, drug manufacturers have an obligation to legally and safely design, manufacture, and sell their drugs. When people are injured after taking a defective drug, the law allows them to take their claim to court. In Ohio, such a case would typically be brought under the Ohio Products Liability Act (“OPLA”).

What Makes a Drug Defective

It is legally well established that a manufacturer may be held liable for injuries caused by a defective drug.  Injuries generally fall into three categories:

  • Injuries that result from a drug that was designed defectively. When a drug is defectively designed, then all drugs designed according to the same specifications may be potentially harmful.  One example of a defectively designed drug is the Ortho Evra birth control patch, which exposes a woman to a greater risk of blood clots and other injuries due to its higher level of estrogen as compared with other forms of hormone contraceptives. 
  • Injuries that result from a drug that was manufactured incorrectly. Defective manufacturing can introduce dangerous contaminants into a drug. Sometimes drugs are manufactured at the wrong strength or concentration, resulting in the wrong dosage. 
  • Injuries that result from drugs that aren’t adequately labeled or don’t include sufficient warnings about potential drug interactions, appropriate use or potential side effects. An example of this is the blood thinner Xarelto, which failed to warn patients that uncontrolled bleeding was possible. 

Why File a Drug Lawsuit?  

Defective drug lawsuits are meant to compensate injured individuals for: 

  • Medical bills 
  • Lost wages 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Diminished quality of life 
  • Ongoing medical treatments 

In a great many cases, the drug manufacturer will decide to settle with the injured parties prior to the trial. In the case of Xarelto, the manufacturer paid out $775 million in settlements without admitting fault and without pulling the drug off the shelves.

Does it matter if a drug is FDA approved?

It doesn’t matter if the drug in question has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”).  You can prevail on a defective drug claim even if the drug manufacturer complied with all of the FDA labeling and manufacturing requirements.  

Special Features of Ohio Defective Drug  Law

In most cases, defective drug cases can be filed in either state or federal court. Often, many cases with the same fact patterns are filed as class action lawsuits. 

Although every state has its own product liability law, these laws are broadly similar. Nevertheless, each state’s law includes its own unique aspects, and Ohio is no exception. Some of the special features of the Ohio Products Liability Act as it relates to defective drugs are as follows:

  • A drug will not be considered unreasonably dangerous if the danger was foreseeable.
  • You can sue under the Ohio Product Liability law if the product was defectively designed, manufactured or failed to adequately warn of dangers. 
  • You must file a product liability claim within two years after you actually learn (or should have known) of the injury or harm upon which your claim is based. 
  • Ohio does not limit compensatory damages, but does limit non-economic damages (so-called pain and suffering damages) to $250,000 or three times the economic loss, whichever amount is greater. 

Defective Drug Lawsuits: In a Nutshell

These are the most important facts to remember about pursuing a defective drug claim in Ohio are:

  • If your claim is strong, many qualified lawyers will take your case on a contingency basis. This means you pay the law firm a portion of your winnings, but if you lose the case you pay nothing.
  • Drug companies will vigorously defend design defect lawsuits because, if they lose the case, they will have to take the drug off the market. The same is not necessarily true for manufacturing defects and failures to warn; these are more likely to be settled.
  • You will likely need professional expert witnesses to help you prove  your claim.
  • The fact that you do not have to prove liability against a drug manufacturer (under most circumstances) gives you a huge advantage in both settlement negotiations and litigation.

If you or someone you love has been injured or impacted by a defective drug, contact our firm to help you with the path forward

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