Product liability law is aimed at helping keep dangerous or defective products off the market. One Georgia man recently decided to file a product liability law suit in a Pennsylvania court, claiming that the public has not been properly warned about the dangers of one popular over-the-counter medication.
The man alleges that he suffered liver failure after taking combinations of appropriate doses of Tylenol and a generic form of Vicodin at the direction of his doctor. It is his position that Tylenol is linked to causing liver problems and that the drug companies failed to provide adequate warnings on Tylenol bottles, even though they knew of the associated risk. He has asserted claims for strict liability, fraud, failure to warn and design defects.
The lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania state court. The product liability attorney defending the suit has removed the matter to the federal court in Pennsylvania. The defendants argue that this is the more appropriate forum for the suit; there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the damages at issue exceed the $50,000 jurisdictional limit of Pennsylvania state court.
Determining what court in which to proceed with a lawsuit is a question that both plaintiffs and defendants should consider. There are a host of different reasons to proceed in one court rather than the other. In some cases, proceeding in federal court is mandatory, such as when a matter arises under federal law. There are instances in which it is possible to proceed in federal court. For example, when the plaintiffs and defendants are residents of different states, it may be possible to proceed in federal court if more than $75,000 is at issue.
Whether a product liability case either is removed from state court to federal court or begins in federal court from the outset, the governing law is the same. There is no such thing as federal product liability law. Instead, such a case is based on state law. In particular, the state's laws related to strict liability, negligence and other claims alleged in a complaint will govern.
Thus, while there may be other benefits and drawbacks to proceeding in federal court with a product liability lawsuit, there will be no effect on the law that controls the suit. The man's Tylenol claim will be governed by Pennsylvania law whether it continues in state court or is successfully removed to federal court.
Source: pennrecord.com, "J&J, others face products liability claim by man whose acute liver failure is tied to Tylenol-Vicodin mixture," Jon Campisi, Oct. 2, 2013