Unfortunately, not every pharmaceutical product reaches the market in a safe condition for consumers. Drugs may suffer from manufacturing defects or flaws in the way that they were marketed to the public. Sometimes a drug will contain side effects of which consumers were not thoroughly warned, for example, or a manufacturer may not have conducted sufficient research on side effects before releasing a medication. An injured consumer may be able to sue many different parties in these situations, ranging from manufacturers and distributors to the doctor who prescribed a drug. Applicable theories of liability will depend on the cause of the injuries and the defendant being sued.
Sometimes an error occurs at the facility where a manufacturer is making a pharmaceutical. This type of error usually affects only a certain batch of the drug rather than the entire line. Errors also may occur when drugs are being bottled or when they are being shipped to pharmacies. For example, a drug may not have been stored properly, leading to contamination during shipping. Or it may not have been labeled correctly at some point in the process, which may cause a pharmacist or a consumer to believe that it is a different product.
Many drugs that treat serious health conditions have significant side effects of which consumers need to be aware. Manufacturers are required to warn consumers about these side effects, while doctors need to go over the side effects of medications that they recommend to their patients. A consumer might choose to deal with the symptoms of the underlying condition or use a different drug instead of encountering certain side effects. If they are not properly informed, they do not have the opportunity to make this choice. Manufacturers, doctors, and pharmacists also need to provide instructions about how to use the drug safely, such as limits on dosages or requirements for the minimum time between doses.
Sometimes consumers do not know about side effects when a drug is released, only to find out about them after the drug has been on the market for years. If the manufacturer intentionally concealed evidence of dangerous side effects, a victim may be able to obtain a substantial damages award that includes punitive damages. This type of damages is awarded to punish a manufacturer for its intentional misconduct and to deter other manufacturers from deceiving consumers.
Whom to Sue
Anyone and everyone that was involved in providing a flawed drug to consumers can be liable for injuries. A common starting point is the manufacturer, which is usually a large corporation that can pay a substantial damages award, although the manufacturer also has the resources to fight these claims tenaciously. You can potentially sue a manufacturer under a strict liability theory if this applies in your state. This means that the manufacturer is liable for your injuries if they were caused by a defect in the drug, whether or not it acted negligently.
Another common defendant is the doctor who prescribed the medication. This type of claim may be based on a medical malpractice theory, which may involve specific procedural requirements. Similarly, you might be able to sue a hospital or clinic if it was involved in providing you with the drug. Patients also often sue a pharmacy if they failed to receive proper advice on using a drug from the pharmacist.
Certain other parties may be brought into a claim if their negligence contributed to your injuries. You may be able to sue a pharmaceutical sales representative if they made statements about how to use a drug that misled doctors or the public. Laboratories that tested the drug also may bear some fault if they failed to conduct proper tests. Sometimes a manufacturer tests a drug in its own laboratories, but other laboratories may be independent, which means that they can be sued separately.