03.04.09

Comment On Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Jury Award To Vermont Musician Diana Levine In Much-Watched Wyeth v. Levine Case

[The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Nov. 3, 2008, in Wyeth v. Diana Levine, a case in which a jury in Vermont awarded damages to Levine, a musician from Marshfield, Vermont, who sustained life-altering injuries due to a drug manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth.  Wyeth sought to overturn the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision, which affirmed a jury verdict in Levine’s favor.  On Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced a 6-3 decision which reaffirmed the ruling, upholding a jury award of $6.7 million to Levine.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in connection with the case.]

“This decision to uphold the Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling in Wyeth v. Levine has far-reaching effects on the ability of countless Americans to seek justice in their courts.  Diana Levine’s life and career have suffered irreparable – yet preventable – damage. The Court’s decision soundly rejects the anti-consumer position of the Bush administration, and reaffirms Congress’ primacy concerning the extraordinary power to preempt state law.  Most of all, the decision reclaims for all American citizens the ability to seek justice in their courts of law. 

“In the 110th Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee held several hearings to examine the way in which federal agencies have overstepped their authority in the area of preemption, and, given what I viewed as an untenable position by the drug maker and the former administration, I filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in Ms. Levine’s case.  I am gratified that the Court has spoken so clearly on this issue.  While recent Supreme Court decisions have shielded big business from accountability and have undermined stronger state consumer protections, this ruling alters that earlier course and affirms that Congress never intended to preempt state laws in the way claimed by Wyeth and the Bush-Cheney administration, claimed.  This is a clear victory for Ms. Levine, and for all American consumers.  It is also a clear vindication for our own laws and courts in Vermont.”

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