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When is a pharmaceutical company liable for drug reactions?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2020 | Defective Products & Consumer Protection

Many drugs on the market can cause adverse reactions, but in some cases, you may be able to hold the drug company liable for the harm you suffer. As FindLaw explains, this may be true even for FDA-approved drugs or those prescribed by a doctor. 

Understanding product liability laws and duty to warn will help you better understand when you may have a worthwhile civil claim. 

Negligence and liability 

If you have an adverse reaction to a medication that results in significant harm, you will first want to consider whether negligence on the part of the company caused the damage. For example, if you have an allergy to a certain substance and knowingly consume it in a medication, the injury would be the result of personal negligence. If however, the manufacturer failed to report the ingredient, you may have a more reasonable legal claim. 

Product liability cases for over the counter and prescription drugs generally fall into three categories: False or inadequate marketing, errors in medication design or mistakes in manufacturing. In all three of these situations, the law can hold drug companies responsible for resulting injuries. 

Learned intermediaries 

Drug manufacturers are responsible to warn potential consumers of side effects to their products. This applies to side effects of which the company is aware or should reasonably be aware. They often transfer this responsibility to doctors, nurses, pharmacists or others when drug representatives promote their products. These individuals become “learned intermediaries.” 

It can sometimes be difficult to determine the most responsible party when a drug causes harm. A good personal injury lawyer can help tease out the best route forward in these cases. 

Circumstantial evidence 

Injury is not always the cause of negligence. As such, plaintiffs are generally responsible to prove negligence in personal injury lawsuits. But when it comes to medications and product liability claims, there is rarely definitive proof of negligence. Because of this, most courts will allow circumstantial evidence and make logical deductions. 

When a plaintiff cannot identify the brand of the particular drug that caused a reaction, each manufacturer may be liable according to its percentage of sales in the area. Be aware of the statute of limitations for the jurisdiction where you bring your claim. For example, Maryland’s statute of limitations for product liability is three years.