The Normalization of Product Preemption Doctrine
55 Pages Posted: 26 May 2008
Date Written: May 1, 2006
When the United States Supreme Court decided Geier v. American Honda Motor Company in 2000, much speculation ensued as to whether the Court was establishing a new set of preemption rules for product liability cases, in which implied preemption could be used to bar most of plaintiffs' claims, even where the relevant federal statute's express preemption provision did not do so. Most commentators declared the doctrine of preemption in a hopeless state of disarray following Geier. This article argues that the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC demonstrated a consistency with the earlier Court decisions in Cipollone and Medtronic, thus marginalizing Geier and making it unreliable as precedent in product preemption cases. Bates incorporates certain general norms and values of consumer protectionism into the preemption doctrine as applied to product cases, particularly in cases involving an express preemption provision in the federal statute. Ultimately, Bates demonstrates the Court's belief in the value of state tort law for remedying injuries associated with unsafe products. Going forward, the Cipollone-Medtronic-Bates line of cases is a better measure of preemption in product cases than anything that could be gleaned from Geier.
Keywords: product liability, preemption doctrine, tort law
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation