ALEC-Drafted Bills Seek to Block Harmful Medications Lawsuits
There is a disturbing trend in state legislatures across the country, where conservative lawmakers, in conjunction with corporate special interests, are undermining and obliterating Americans’ right to sue for damages from malpractice and faulty, harmful medications, among other product liability suits. Bills limiting consumers’ ability to seek compensation for damages resulting from manufacturer malfeasance have been passed in approximately 20 states as of 2014. These bills not only limit consumer protections but also serve the interests of those persons and corporations that would otherwise be liable for issuing faulty products and seek to bar as many harmful medications lawsuits as possible. So why are these laws that run contrary to the health and safety of the American people being proposed, pushed, and passed by state lawmakers? The answer is disturbing and should alarm anyone who is concerned about American democracy.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (known by the colloquial, friendly sounding acronym ALEC) is an organization of the largest corporations and special interests in the country, as well as by corrupt or clueless politicians who tend to be self-proclaimed conservatives in most cases. The fundamental flaw with ALEC-drafted legislation is that it gives a much louder voice to corporate interests that often run completely counter to the interests of the general public, whose voices are not present or listened to during the drafting of these bills, which occur, in the words of the American Association for Justice, “in the ultimate smoke-filled back room.” Behind closed doors, ALEC gives its powerful corporate backers “a voice and a vote.” Although it claims to be a nonpartisan group that supports limited government and free market capitalism, there is no question as to ALEC’s pro-business, anti-consumer agenda. The proof lies in the legislation the organization has drafted and passed since its official inception in 1975.
How ALEC has Limited Corporate Liability for Personal Injury Claims
With its model bills drafted by drug companies and versions enacted in Michigan and over a dozen other states, ALEC has succeeded in limiting the circumstances under which consumers may sue drug companies for injuries caused by defective, harmful medications.
Drug manufacturers argue that it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep litigation costs for themselves at a minimum, claiming that they need the money to conduct research to find new cures. For an industry awash in high revenue and high profits, this argument rings false—especially since personal injury lawyers and public advocacy groups who represent consumers allege with no small amount of supporting evidence that these laws threaten public safety by removing the incentive for drug companies to create safe medications and allowing them to knowingly release and sell faulty, dangerous, or harmful medications without fear of financial reprisal. In a free market system that ALEC claims to promote, liability provides pretty much the only incentive for corporations to act responsibly and in the interest of public health and safety.
Two model ALEC bills underpin this line of anti-consumer legislation: the Drug Liability Act and the Regulatory Compliance Congruity with Liability Act. In 1995, Michigan was one of the first states to enact an ALEC-inspired immunity law for drug manufacturers as long as the harmful medication was approved by the FDA. The problem with this is that the FDA’s limited resources and regulatory power make it impossible for the agency to oversee every new drug, so the agencies decisions are often based solely on information supplied by the manufacturer, which has no incentive not to lie about its medications or downplay the negative effects. As long as they are granted initial approval by the FDA when these drugs are later shown to cause illness or death, it’s far too late to prosecute the offending manufacturer. As a result, many harmful medications lawsuits that would have otherwise gone to court and won damages for the victims were never allowed to proceed under the severe restrictions against consumers seeking justice in this type of ALEC-imposed legislation.
To learn more about ALEC legislation that violates your rights, visit ALEC Exposed. If you have been injured by a harmful medication, contact an experienced attorney at The Advocates to discuss your case before you lose the ability to sue those who are responsible.