John Roberts Supreme Court has rarely, if ever, voted to protect any individual victim’s rights when that individual’s rights have butted heads with a corporation. It is therefore difficult to be optimistic after reading that the high court has chosen (just three justices are needed to choose a case) to hear an appeal from a generic drug maker that was hit with a $21 million verdict in New Hampshire in 2009. A pain killer from a branch of Takeda Pharmaceuticals caused a woman to lose more than 60 percent of her outer skin layer, spend months in a medically-induced coma, a year being tube-fed and operated on 12 times for eye problems related to the drug. Almost blind, Karen L. Bartlett can’t eat normally because of esophageal burns. She can’t have sex because of vaginal injuries, and she can’t perform aerobic activities because of lung injuries.
Insult to Injury
Ms. Bartlett’s situation is likely to worsen, however, since the high court has chosen to hear her generic drug maker’s request for an appeal. Unfortunately for Ms. Bartlett, the five justices on the high court who were chosen by Republican presidents can almost always be counted on to vote for the corporation, and it only takes five Supreme Court judges to overturn Ms. Bartlett’s lawful jury verdict and turn justice on its head. It would be a miracle of conscience and a rare triumph for humanity if the five Republican President appointees depart from their well-beaten path of protecting corporations at the expense of actual people.
Protecting the 1%
Among its accomplishments in steering America toward total corporate domination, the Roberts court has voted 5-4 (the same five Republican appointees every time) to shield generic drug makers from liability (PLIVA v. Mensing, 2011); voted to shield medical device makers from liability (Riegel v. Medtronic, 2008); voted to give Exxon an essentially free pass for destroying the lives, livelihoods and environments of 30,000 people along with countless animals and marine life (Exxon Shipping v. Baker, 2008); voted to allow corporations to pollute the water of at least 117 million americans with impunity and to escape EPA investigations (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2001; and Rapanos v. United States, 2006); voted to overturn a century of antitrust law prohibiting price fixing by retailers (Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., 2007); voted to put U.S. state, local and national elections up for sale to the highest bidders, be they corporations foreign or domestic (Citizens United v. FEC , 2010); voted to make it easier for corporations to discriminate against women and the elderly (Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 2007); and the dreary list goes on.
Alliance for Justice Writes:
“Fairness has been thrown out the window. The 1% keep winning while the 99% keep losing.“
A federal appeals court in Boston had previously upheld the verdict against Takeda, agreeing with Bartlett’s argument that she was pressing a different legal theory than the one the Supreme Court bought in PLIVA v. Mensing regarding the generic company’s not being able to unilaterally change its label or even to take some action to try to have it altered to reflect a drug’s actual (up-to-date) risks. Bartlett claimed that sulindac was so dangerous it shouldn’t have been on the market. Her lawyer also argued that nothing prevented Takeda from ceasing the sale of sulindac.
We hope and pray Bartlett finds justice and the high court also upholds her award; but given what we know of the injustices of the pro-business, anti-citizen Roberts court, we are finding it difficult to be optimistic.