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division is based in Collegeville, Pa. Wyeth was formerly known as American Home Products, which manufactured fenfluramine, the “fen” in fen-phen.
Minnesota and the Northern District of Ohio have also been among the most popular places to file federal products liability lawsuits in recent years. And, of course, plaintiff’s attorneys often tend to file cases in their own jurisdictions, so particularly active law firms have an impact on those numbers as well.
It has been nearly a year and a half since President Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) into law. It is too soon for CAFA to have much impact on products liability filings since the act is not retroactive. But the impact on federal and state courts should be seen in years to come, since the act is designed to make it easier to shift multistate cases to federal jurisdictions.
CAFA has several goals, including:
Limit forum shopping;
Increase judicial oversight of
class-action settlements; and
Expand federal jurisdiction for class actions.
Companies are also learning to limit the risks of their products, according to Gary J. Spahn, a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP in Richmond, Va. “Sophisticated companies are increasingly dealing with safety,” he says. “Hopefully, this will have some
Of course, plaintiffs’ lawyers are clever and may well adapt. And that is not a bad thing, according to Spahn, who sits on the other side of the courtroom aisle. He has represented Bayer, E.I. duPont DeNemours and Company and Health o meter Inc., which makes Mr. Coffee machines, in products liability cases.
“It allows people who otherwise couldn’t afford or organize a lawsuit to go after big companies,” he says.
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For many companies, products liability lawsuits are simply a cost of doing business, a fact that many pharmaceutical companies and auto manufacturers understand.
It is the smaller and medium-sized companies that may not be prepared for products liability cases, although they should know better. “They don’t take products liability cases as seriously as they should,” says Spahn. “Product design issues can literally bring down a company.” He points to A. H. Robins Co., which manufactured the Dalkon