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Tort Reform Will Hurt Women Harmed By Prescription Drugs or Medical Devices


March 1995

A recent editorial by Pat Swift in the Buffalo News warns that tort reforms currently under debate in Congress could have a major impact on the ability of women to be compensated for damage done to them by defective prescription drugs and medical devices (Pat Swift, "Drug 'Reform' Helps Industry, Hurts Women," Buffalo News, Feb. 18 1995, p. C7).

Swift points to studies conducted by Professor Michael Rustad at Suffolk University Law School that show that nearly half of the punitive damage awards made between 1963 and 1993 were made to women who had sustained injury from defective drugs or medical devices (e.g., Dalkon shield, breast implants).

Swift argues that court action against large pharmaceutical companies is often the only way to speed the removal of dangerous drugs from the market. She says that litigation often causes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move more quickly against drug manufacturers.

Tort reform, she argues, will put a chill on product liability cases brought by women. "That chill is intended. ... As product liability is reduced and regulatory agencies are declawed, corporate accountability is certain to diminish. These 'common sense' legal reforms don't make much sense for women."