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Houston Personal Injury Law Blog

Holding manufacturers accountable for defective drugs

People get sick and hurt in Houston every day. There is no one who is completely immune from these things and at some time it is most likely bound to happen. There are also many drug companies who have developed drugs to help either cure people of at least diminish the effects of these illnesses or injuries. These drugs can be very helpful when taken correctly, and in some cases even save lives.

People rely on the drug companies to make safe drugs that will have their intended effect. They assume that when they take the medication according to the prescription or directions on the bottle, that it will be safe. Any time someone takes a drug, there can be side effects though. People assume these things, but they want to be informed at least prior to taking the drug. That way they can at least know the risks ahead of time and make the proper decision about whether to take the drug and how to take it.

Overcoming the presumption that certain products are safe

There have been many inventions and products over the years that help people in Texas with many different projects or actions. Some products are better than others, but overall life has become much easier because of these various products. Sometimes these products break though. This can be frustrating, but it can become a real big problem if the product causes an injury to the user. These injuries can be very serious and change a person's life.

The government has an interest in keeping its citizens safe as well. So, the government sets certain safety standards for products. Generally, if these safety standards are followed, the people using the products should be safe. However, that is not always the case. If someone is injured because of an unsafe product, they may be able to receive compensation for the injury. In order to obtain this compensation, the victim may need to file a products liability lawsuit in civil court.

'Strict liability' for defective medical devices in Texas

When we discuss liability in medical injury cases, we often focus on the idea of 'negligence.' There is good reason for this, as most cases when it comes to, say, a bad batch of medicine, or a medical device that is designed improperly, turn on whether there was someone at fault for the injuries that occurred due to the use of the medicine or device. However, this is not always the case.

Readers of this blog may recall that there are basically three types of defects that can occur with a medical device. These are design defects, manufacturing defects and warning defects. For most design and warning defects, whether someone was negligent when planning the device or writing or issuing the warnings may be important. However, for many manufacturing defect cases, it doesn't matter how careful the manufacturer was in creating the process that made the device; if the device was made badly, and that fault in the device itself caused injury, the manufacturer may be liable.

Houston-area high school student killed in truck accident

While 18-wheel trucks are essential for both the national and Texas economies and help provide consumers with the goods they require for modern life, there is also no doubt that their presence on the roadways can sometimes pose a hazard to other drivers. The size and unwieldiness of large trucks can contribute to road crashes, either through limiting drivers' sight lines, or the trucks' habit of making unusual maneuvers while turning. Further, the sheer mass of these vehicles can lead to catastrophic results when an accident does occur.

Unfortunately, a recent incident in the Houston area illustrates the potential for tragedy posed by an accident involving a semi-truck. On a rainy morning, an 18-year-old high school student on her way to class encountered an 18-wheeler head-on. The crash resulted in the tragic death of the young woman, though the driver of the truck escaped unscathed.

What is the statute of limitations in Texas products liability?

Texas residents may have heard the term 'statute of limitations' before. They might also have a vague idea that it has something to do with when a case can be filed, which is generally correct. The idea behind a statute of limitations is twofold. First, it is to encourage that legal cases be brought expeditiously after an injury or event has occurred, so that the evidence and other information used in a legal proceeding is available and relatively fresh. Second, it is to take away a bit of uncertainty in the process, so that people and businesses aren't continually worrying about being sued for very old acts or omissions.

In Texas personal injury law, the statute of limitations is generally two years. What this means is that, for example, in a products liability case, a suit against the manufacturer or seller of a defective product needs to be filed within two years of the date of the injury suffered by the plaintiff. Suits filed after that time period had passed would normally be dismissed.

The consequences of defective drug labeling are real

This blog has previously touched on the three main categories of defects that might have caused injury to a patient. To refresh, these are manufacturing defects, design defects and labeling or warning defects. While the first kinds of problems most Texans likely think about when they hear defective drug, are those involving the design or making of the medication, problems with labelling and warning can have very real and very serious consequences.

There are very few pharmaceuticals out there that don't have side effects. Even most over-the-counter medicines tell consumers not to take them if they have certain conditions, or to discontinue use if they experience certain symptoms. When a person taking a drug is not aware of these things, however, he or she (and possibly any doctor involved) cannot make an informed choice as to whether that medication is right for that patient's situation.

What is preemption in a Texas pharmaceutical liability case?

This blog has spent some time discussing the major role the federal Food and Drug Administration plays in regulating the safety of pharmaceutical products in Texas and the rest of the United States. The FDA not only monitors the way companies research, produce and bring drugs to market, but it also approves various uses and warnings of potential side effects of medicines sold throughout the country. While these are important and necessary functions to affect consumers, pharmaceutical manufacturers have used the existence of this regulatory body to attempt to avoid liability for injuries caused by their products.

One way this is done in defective warnings cases is by defending manufacturers asserting what is known as the 'federal preemption doctrine.' This doctrine is based on the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which generally says that when federal and state laws conflict, federal law applies. At a very basic level, the argument these companies make is that if the FDA has approved a warning for a certain drug, the manufacturer cannot be held liable for a defect in the warning even if state law standards would allow it.

How many truck accidents happen in Texas?

There's a saying that Texas is "a world all of its own." There's no doubt that as the United States' second largest state by area, encompassing over a quarter-million square miles, getting around the state of Texas can be quite a challenge. This means thousands upon thousands of miles of roadways crisscross the state to allow people and products to get where they need to go. It also means that there are huge numbers of vehicles travelling Texas roads every day, including big commercial vehicles that transport all the things Texans need to keep their daily lives humming along.

We've discussed previously the fact that accidents involving these large vehicles can be absolutely devastating to those involved. Because of their size, weight and the speeds at which they often travel, when commercial vehicles crash, they can cause terrible damage to other vehicles on the road and the people inside them. But just how often do accidents like this happen?

Products liability cases for surgical mesh may rise

There have been many lawsuits filed in the U.S. over the last several years regarding a type of product known as 'trans-vaginal mesh.' Texas residents may be aware of this through news reports, or seeing television commercials seeking out people who have been injured by the devices. There are now indications that a similar product may become the subject of products liability litigation. That product is surgical mesh used mainly in hernia operations.

This surgical mesh is used by surgeons to aid in repairing hernias in their patients, and is left in the person's body after the surgery. There are now claims, however, that the mesh creates a risk of infection and inflammation in the patients, and that the materials of which it is made is incompatible with long-term contact with human tissue.

What if a defective drug's manufacturer cannot be pinpointed?

We've previously discussed the fact that manufacturers of pharmaceuticals have a duty to ensure that the processes they use to create the drugs they sell meet federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines, and that the medications produced thereby are safe and effective for the end users. Further, we've touched on the fact that there can be defects in the design of a drug, the manufacturing of the medicine itself, or in the way consumers are told about the potential effects of drugs. When a drug company allows a medication with a defect to be placed into the stream of commerce, they may be liable for monetary damages to anyone who is injured by the product.

In some cases, it will be relatively easy to determine when a defective drug causes an injury, as there will be a fairly obvious cause and effect relationship between the patient consuming the medicine and the harmful effects. This will not always be the case, however. For example, in the case of a drug taken during a woman's pregnancy that causes some sort of long-term harm to the child, the actual damage done by the defective product may not be known for months or even years.


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