Life expectancy in the United States has increased from 39.4 years in 1860 to 78.9 years in 2020. One of the primary reasons for this increase is the development of new pharmaceuticals, especially antibiotics. However, taking medications can sometimes lead to unintended consequences, including severe side effects which can lead to serious injury, cancer or death.
Some drugs, like Zantac, may contain carcinogens which can cause cancer. Some drugs, like Elmiron, may cause unique diseases that didn’t even exist before the drug did. Some drugs, like Injectafer, may cause serious, possibly life-threatening blood deficiencies.
In a perfect world, all drug manufacturers would adequately test their products to make sure they’re safe before putting them for sale on the marketplace, and the FDA would always make sure this occurs. However, unfortunately, drug makers don’t always test their products enough, and sometimes they actually know their products are dangerous but choose not to warn the public in the name of profit. Furthermore, the FDA doesn’t always do a perfect job of making sure that drugs are safe before they enter the marketplace.
If you’ve been injured by a dangerous drug in California, you may be eligible for financial compensation for your injuries. You should contact a personal injury lawyer like Nadrich & Cohen immediately, as California law holds drug manufacturers strictly liable for injuries caused by defective drugs, but you won’t stand a chance in court against the pharmaceutical industry’s expensive corporate lawyers if you don’t have strong, experienced lawyers of your own by your side.
California Product Liability Laws
It is California’s product liability laws, specifically its laws regarding strict liability, that allow victims of dangerous drugs to obtain financial compensation for their injuries.
Most personal injury lawsuits require that it be proven that a defendant was negligent. Negligence is failing to be reasonably careful in order to prevent harm from occurring. It is negligent to not behave as a reasonably careful person would behave in the same situation. It is negligent to do what a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation, and it is negligent to not do what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation. In other words, acting and failing to act can both be negligent.
While dangerous drug lawsuits can involve claims of negligence, lawsuits asserting strict liability do not need to prove that a defendant was negligent. In terms of pharmaceutical lawsuits in California, all lawsuits need to prove in order to recover strict liability damages is that a dangerous drug was defective.
There are three types of defects in California product liability law: manufacturing defects, design defects and failure to warn defects.
Manufacturing defects occur when something goes wrong during the manufacturing process of the drug. Manufacturing defects can occur when:
- An ingredient designed to be in the drug is accidentally left out of the drug while it’s being made
- Incorrect dosages of ingredients are used while the drug is being made
- An ingredient not designed to be in the drug is accidentally added to the drug while it’s being made
- The medication is given the wrong label while it is being made
- The drug is contaminated, possibly by unsanitary conditions, while it is being made
An example of a real-life drug with a manufacturing defect is valsartan. Many batches of generic valsartan were found to contain the carcinogen NDMA in 2018. These contaminated drugs were made by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals in China, and it was discovered that the NDMA contamination occurred due to a change in the drug’s manufacturing process. The NDMA contamination in valsartan may cause liver, colorectal, stomach, kidney, bladder or pancreatic cancer, as well as liver failure.
California juries are instructed the following regarding manufacturing defects:
A product contains a manufacturing defect if the product differs from the manufacturer’s design or specifications or from other typical units of the same product line.
The following must be proven to successfully establish a manufacturing defect claim in California:
- A defendant manufactured, sold or distributed a product
- The product contained a manufacturing defect at the time it left the defendant’s possession
- A plaintiff was harmed
- The product defect substantially caused the harm to the plaintiff
Proving all of this requires evidence. However, a good deal of the evidence you’ll need to prove this may be in possession of the pharmaceutical company you’re trying to sue, including:
- Witness testimony or quality assurance reports, which can help illuminate if anything went wrong during the manufacturing process
- Medication samples, which can be tested to see if anything is in them that shouldn’t be, or if anything that should be in them is missing
- The drug’s design plans, which are needed to know if the drug was manufactured properly and by design
Pharmaceutical companies won’t just hand this evidence over to you if you ask for it. Experienced dangerous drug lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen know how to use the discovery process in order to obtain important evidence like this for you. Lawyers can force pharmaceutical companies to produce depositions, interrogatories, documents and more in order to bolster your case and help you obtain compensation for your pharmaceutical injuries.
Nothing needs to go wrong during the manufacturing process for a drug to have a design defect. Products with design defects are unreasonably dangerous even when they are manufactured and used properly, as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. These products are defective by design; their design itself is defective.
Most drugs with design defects are defective because they have unintended, severe side effects. These side effects can occur when:
- Drug manufacturers fail to test new drugs enough to identify reasonably discoverable risks and find out if the drug is safe is not
- Drug manufacturers don’t anticipate their drugs interacting with foods or other drugs
- Drug makers don’t tell the FDA the truth while their drugs are being approved
- Drug makers don’t consider alternatives to the drugs which may be safer
An example of a real-life drug with a design defect is Zantac. The FDA requested that Zantac be removed from the United States market in April 2020 because it contains the carcinogen NDMA. However, unlike in the case of valsartan, the NDMA didn’t get into Zantac via problems with the manufacturing process.
Testing laboratory Emery Pharma found that NDMA gradually forms in Zantac when the drug is exposed to heat. In other words, Zantac forms NDMA in itself, by itself, even when it is manufactured correctly by design. The lab found that a sample of Zantac exceeded the FDA’s daily intake limit of 96 nanograms of NDMA after only five days of exposure to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. The lab also found that a Zantac sample could exceed the FDA’s daily intake limit of NDMA after only 48 days of storage in a 77 degree Fahrenheit warehouse.
A drug like Zantac that literally forms a carcinogen in itself by itself, even when it is made correctly, is defective by design, and drug manufacturers are liable in California for any injuries caused by drugs that are defective by design.
Design defect claims in California must prove the following to be successful:
- A defendant made, sold or distributed a product
- The product failed to perform as safely as ordinary consumers would expect when it’s used properly or in a reasonably foreseeable manner
- A plaintiff was harmed
- The product’s failure to safely perform substantially caused the harm to the plaintiff
If these things are successfully proven in a design defect claim, then California juries are instructed to award damages to a plaintiff if they decide that the product’s risks outweigh its benefits. California juries are instructed to consider the following to determine if a product’s risks outweigh its benefits:
- How badly someone can be hurt by using the product
- How likely it is someone will be hurt by using the product
- How feasible alternative, safer designs were at the time the product was made
- How much these alternatives cost
- The disadvantages of these alternatives
Proving a design defect requires many things, including:
- Your medical records, which can prove how badly you were hurt and that a drug was connected with your injuries
- Documentation of the drug’s testing and design process
- Documentation the drug makers gave the FDA while the drug was being approved
Pharmaceutical companies won’t just hand you the latter two if you ask for them nicely. Experienced mass tort lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen can use the discovery process to make the pharmaceutical companies be legally obligated to hand over this crucial evidence which can help you obtain a financial recovery for your injuries.
Failure To Warn Defects
Failure to warn defects occur when drug companies know or should know that their products are dangerous, yet fail to warn the public about the dangers associated with their drugs. This failure to warn can result from simple incompetence: drug companies sometimes simply don’t adequately test their drugs, so they don’t discover serious side effects until their products are already on the market. Other times, this failure to warn can result from active coverups of their products’ dangers in the name of profit.
Pharmaceutical companies can fail to warn you about possible injuries when they:
- Fail to mention potential side effects when marketing or advertising their drugs. Drug companies are not required to advertise drugs, but when they do, they are mandated to be truthful and disclose the benefits and risks of their drugs.
- Fail to warn about potential side effects in the instructions or warnings that come with their drugs. Drug makers are legally bound to include known side effects in the information that comes with their drugs.
An example of a drug with a failure to warn defect is the previously mentioned Zantac. Experiment results regarding Zantac were published in 1981 showing that NDMA could form when Zantac was exposed to nitrates and human gastric fluid, and a news article in 1979 claimed that “NDMA has caused cancer in nearly every laboratory animal tested so far.”
In other words, the makers of Zantac should have known by 1981 that a carcinogen could form in a human stomach when in the presence of nitrates, yet failed to put any warnings on their product labeling, and failed to place any warnings in their advertisements, about the risk of cancer associated with the drug. A product contains a failure to warn defect when a company should know that their product may cause cancer but fails to warn about it.
The following must be proven to successfully establish a failure to warn claim in California:
- A defendant made, sold or distributed a product
- The product had potential risks that were known or should have been known in light of generally accepted scientific and medical knowledge at the time the product was made, distributed and sold
- The product’s risks make it substantially dangerous when it is used properly or in a reasonably foreseeable manner
- Ordinary consumers won’t recognize the potential risks without being warned about them
- The defendant failed to warn or instruct about the risks
- A plaintiff was harmed
- The lack of warnings or instructions substantially caused the harm to the plaintiff
Failure to warn cases are often won when plaintiffs obtain internal documents from pharmaceutical companies showing they knew about a risk that they failed to warn about. However, pharmaceutical companies will obviously not share documents like these with you if you’ve been injured by their drugs and you simply ask for them.
Pharmaceutical companies can be forced by law to cough these documents up during the discovery process of a lawsuit, but this process can be complex and challenging to navigate through. Experienced pharmaceutical lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen can help guide you through this process and obtain the evidence you need in order to prove that a company failed to warn you about the dangers associated with their drug.
Why Don’t Drug Companies Warn About Their Drugs’ Side Effects?
Sometimes drug companies simply fail to warn about their drugs’ side effects because they’re unaware of them, even though they should be aware of them. This can occur when they fail to invest enough time and money into testing their drugs before releasing them onto the market.
However, drug companies sometimes fail to warn about their drugs’ side effects even when they know about the side effects. They do this because they think that doing so will make them more profit than warning about the side effects.
Warnings about serious side effects can convince consumers not to take a drug. Failing to warn about a side effect can cost a drug company billions of dollars in lawsuits once the side effects are discovered by the public. However, drug companies sometimes calculate that the profits they’ll make selling the drug before the side effect is discovered will outweigh the money they’ll lose to lawsuits after the side effect is discovered.
How Do Dangerous Drug Lawsuits Work?
When dangerous drugs lead to serious side effects, these side effects usually impact large numbers of people. Many lawsuits are filed, and these lawsuits are typically consolidated into what is known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
When an MDL is formed, all the claims are consolidated under a single federal judge. If you file a dangerous drug lawsuit in California, your case may be transferred to a judge in another state who is handling all claims throughout the country. These cases are sometimes returned to their states of origin when settlements aren’t reached.
The discovery process occurs after an MDL is formed. This is when lawyers get documents, interrogatories and depositions out of the pharmaceutical companies to gather evidence.
Bellwether trials are conducted after the discovery process. There is typically only one or a few bellwether trials, which are designed to give the plaintiffs and defendants an idea of how valid the plaintiffs’ cases are and how much their cases are worth.
Most dangerous drug cases settle after the bellwether trials establish the general value of the claims. The pharmaceutical companies have figured out through the bellwether trials how much the cases are worth, and offer the remaining plaintiffs settlements reflecting this value in order to avoid further legal fees. Cases that don’t settle after the bellwether trials are sent back to their original states to be tried, and you can recover damages if you win the lawsuit.
How Can I Be Compensated For My Dangerous Drug Injuries?
Experienced medication side effect attorneys like Nadrich & Cohen can help you obtain compensation for your dangerous drug injuries. Many types of damages can be recovered in dangerous drug lawsuits including:
Medical bills: If you’ve been injured by a dangerous drug, you are probably facing large medical bills for the treatment you’ve received as a result of the injuries. You may also require future medical treatment which will produce more bills. You can recover damages for past and future medical bills in a dangerous drug lawsuit.
Lost wages: Your dangerous drug injuries may have caused you to miss time from work. You may have been unable to work or you may have had to take time off from work to receive medical treatment. You can recover damages for any money you’ve failed to earn because of your dangerous medication injuries.
Loss of earning capacity: You may be left unable to work in the future because of your dangerous drug injuries. You can recover damages for any money you would have been able to earn in the future, but can no longer earn, because of your injuries resulting from dangerous medications.
Physical and mental pain and suffering: Injuries can be physically and mentally painful. Filing a dangerous drug lawsuit allows you to pursue financial damages for any physical or mental pain and suffering that has been caused by a dangerous medication.
Wrongful death: You can pursue wrongful death damages in a dangerous drug lawsuit if your loved one died because they took a defective drug.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in dangerous drug lawsuits, especially when it can be proven that a defendant knew their drug was dangerous but chose not to warn about the danger so they could make more money selling the dangerous drug.
How Much Do Dangerous Drug Lawyers Cost?
Most dangerous drug lawyers, such as Nadrich & Cohen, represent clients on a contingency fee. This means that no fee is charged until and unless financial compensation is obtained for the client, and no upfront fee is charged.
The only fee that we charge our clients is a percentage of any recovery we obtain for them. This means that anyone can afford our representation because nobody will ever owe us any money out of pocket for our services.
Why Do I Need A Dangerous Drug Lawyer?
You need strong, experienced representation if you want to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for injuring you with their drugs.
Put yourself in the shoes of a pharmaceutical company for a second. You have an obligation to your shareholders to produce a profit. Somebody comes to you without a lawyer telling you that they’ve been injured by your drug, demanding compensation for their injuries. Are you going to just give them what they ask for? Of course you won’t. You wouldn’t be able to make a profit if you just gave everyone money who asked for it. You would dare them to take you to court over it, knowing that they can’t beat you in court without a lawyer because you have expensive corporate lawyers on your side.
Having battle-tested dangerous drug lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen on your side evens the playing field in court for you against the pharmaceutical companies. Often times the mere sight of our name on a lawsuit is enough to prompt a pharmaceutical company to settle with us out of court for the full, fair value of our client’s claim. This is because of our long-established track record of success in pharmaceutical claims. The drug companies know that it can be a waste of time and money to take us on in court, so they settle with us out of court to avoid expensive legal fees.