Sense or Sensibility?: Toxic Product Liability under State Law after Cipollone and Medtronic
Jean M. Eggen
Widener University - Delaware Law School
Widener Law Symposium Journal, Vol. 2, 1997
The common law may impose standards of conduct on product manufacturers that vary from standards imposed by federal statutes or regulations. Where the statute contains an express preemption provision, state common-law actions may be barred, depending upon the language in the provision and the intent of Congress. This process is fraught with policy interests, however, which tend to obscure the analytical process of statutory interpretation. This article compares and contrasts the U.S. Supreme Court’s analysis of express preemption in two product cases – the Court’s 1992 decision in Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc. and its 1996 decision in Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr. Cipollone was a compromise decision in which the Court held that some, but not all of the cigarette product liability claims were preempted by the express preemption provision in the cigarette labeling act. Medtronic, which involved the Medical Device Amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, resulted in a decision that none of the asserted product claims was preempted. This article examines the process of analysis used by the Supreme Court in these cases and illuminates the implicit lessons of these two cases for preemption jurisprudence. The article also predicts the impact that Cipollone and Lohr may have on other cases involving allegedly toxic products.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 67
Keywords: product liability, toxic torts, preemption
JEL Classification: K13
Date posted: October 20, 2011
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