As the opioid crisis spins out of control, people are looking for ways to rein in the epidemic and for ways to hold accountable those responsible. Individuals are suing their doctors for contributing to an opiate addiction, and cities, counties, and states are suing drug manufacturers for creating a flood of opiates.
But can a single person or class of individuals hold a drug company legally responsible for an opioid addiction?
Suing a drug manufacturer for a drug’s danger or its addictive properties will generally take the shape of a product liability lawsuit, whereby a manufacturer can be held liable for a dangerous or defective product. There are three ways to hold a drug manufacturer liable based on pharmaceutical drug liability:
- Defects in Design: Alleging a drug poses an unreasonable risk to consumers even if it is manufactured and used as intended. These include only foreseeable risks, and a drug company could be held liable if it knew about and ignored those risks. These lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies are rare, because as long as some safe use of the drug exists, the manufacturer generally can’t be held liable.
- Defects in Manufacturing: Alleging a mistake in the production of a drug that renders it a danger to consumers. These lawsuits generally arise when medication is contaminated at a processing facility, like when GlaxoSmithKline had to pay $41 million to settle lawsuits about drugs manufactured at its former factory in Puerto Rico. These also may not apply in opiate addiction cases, if the drugs involved were properly manufactured.
- Defects in Warnings: Alleging a drug company’s failure to properly warn consumers of known risks in using its medications. Drug companies could be held liable for providing inadequate warnings, inaccurate warnings, or no warnings at all. This is most commonly cited in pharmaceutical company lawsuits when consumers sue for prescription drug side effects. But may also be applicable to cases where consumers have not been adequately warned about a drug’s addictive properties.
If you or someone you know is addicted to an opioid or other prescription medication, you can contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your case.
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