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AAJ calls Vioxx case a preemption cautionary tale

After two state appellate courts threw out verdicts against the drugmaker Merck & Co. in cases related to early trials involving the painkiller Vioxx today, the nation’s largest trial lawyers group said the cases highlighted the dangers of federal preemption.

In one of the cases, a New Jersey appeals court voided a punitive award of a patient taking the drug – which was pulled from the market after it was linked to heart attacks and strokes – saying the state’s Product Liability Act was pre-empted by the federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.

“The New Jersey decision underscores the danger of federal preemption – created by unelected regulators without the authority of Congress – which allows corporations to receive complete immunity and escape accountability even when they knowingly injure and endanger consumers with unsafe products,” said American Association for Justice President, Kathleen Flynn Peterson in a statement today. “Federal preemption allowed the court to ignore the verdict of a jury which heard all the evidence first hand.”

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