Public Citizen believes that tort law is rightly a matter of state, not federal, concern and that, absent an express congressional determination to the contrary, states should remain free to compensate tort plaintiffs as they deem appropriate. With this principle in mind, our Litigation Group, since the early 1990s, has been a leader in fighting against the argument that federal regulation bars, or "preempts," state-law claims seeking damages for injuries caused by consumer products. Although defendants most frequently assert the preemption defense in product liability and deceptive marketing practices cases, it is also raised in other areas, such as employment cases.
Cases on Preemption
To read more about our cases on this topic, click here.
Articles on Preemption
Wyeth v. Levine and Its Implications (May 2009) Copyright The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
Former Public Citizen Litigation Group Director Brian Wolfman has written an article on the Supreme Court's decision in Wyeth v. Levine, which held that FDA approval of a prescription drug and its labeling does not preempt a state-law suit seeking damages based on injuries caused by the failure of the drug's manufacturer to warn about the drug's dangers.
US Supreme Court Case: A Victory for Patients. (April 2008) Copyright Informa UK Ltd 2008.
Litigation Group Director Allison Zieve discusses the implications for patients of the Supreme Court's decision in Warner-Lambert v Kent.
Supreme Court Decision May be Hazardous to Patients. (March/April 2008) Copyright Informa UK Ltd 2008.
In February 2008, the Supreme Court held that the law that provides authority for the FDA to regulate devices also severely limits the right of injured patients to sue device manufacturers. In this article, Litigation Group Director Allison Zieve explains why this decision creates a hazardous hole in the US system for protecting public health.
Why Preemption Proponents Are Wrong. (March 2007) Posted with permission of TRIAL. Copyright American Association for Justice.
In this article, former Litigation Group Director Brian Wolfman provides insights into defeating preemption defenses and explains that, in fact, protection of the public is maximized when court remedies are allowed to work alongside federal regulation.
The FDA's Argument for Eradicating State Tort Law: Why It Is Wrong and Warrants No Deference (March 27, 2006) Posted with permission of the Bureau of National Affairs.
In January 2006, in a notice announcing the issuance of new drug labeling regulations, the Food and Drug Administration stated that FDA approval of a new drug preempts a range of product liability claims brought by patients injured by prescription drugs. In this article, attorneys Allison M. Zieve and Brian Wolfman explain why the FDA's preemption position is bad law, bad policy, and warrants no deference from the courts.
Product Safety and Liability (September 26, 2005) Copyright Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
In this analysis, law student Daniel Mosteller and former Litigation Group attorney Brian Wolfman discuss the background of the Bates decision and predict its effects, in light of the lower courts' recent tendency to rule in favor of defendants in tort preemption cases.
Learn More About Preserving State Consumer Laws
- Fact Sheet: Why Congress Should Pass the Medical Device Safety Act
- Fact Sheet: The Significance of the Medical Device Safety Act in Light of Wyeth v. Levine
More Resources on Preserving State Consumer Laws
- Letter re: Chemical Safety Improvement Act (PDF), June 12, 2013
- Press Release: Wall Street Reform Must Protect Military, Civilians From Auto Dealer Financing Fraud, March 22, 2010
- Press Release: Obama Memorandum on Pre-Emption Is Good for Consumers, Will Bolster System Designed to Ensure Product Safety, May 21, 2009
- Press Release: Congress Must Restore Rights of Consumers to Hold Medical Device Makers Accountable, May 11, 2009
- Press Release: Congress Must Pass Medical Device Safety Act, Restore Patient Access to Courts, March 5, 2009
- Press Release: Supreme Court Correct to Uphold Right of Injured Patients To Sue Drug Companies, March 4, 2009
- Press Release: Congress Must Protect Used Car Buyers From Fraud, Shady Contracts, March 4, 2009
- Letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget Urging the Obama Administration to Reverse Bush Preemption Policies (PDF), January 13, 2009
- Press Release: Bills Would Restore Rights of Patients Injured By Faulty Medical Devices, June 26, 2008
- Article: US Court Decision in Riegel v. Medtronic May Be Hazardous to Patients (PDF), March 2008
- Press Release: States, Cities May Require Nutritional Labeling at Restaurants, Judge Finds, September 11, 2007
- Report: Taking the Public Trust: How a New York Real Estate Developer Is Threatening State Governments in the West (PDF), November 2006
- Press Release: Radical Land-Use Ballot Initiatives Would Endanger State Government Safeguards and Drain Local Treasuries, November 3, 2006
- Press Release: New U.S. Chamber of Commerce Poll Ranking States’ Liability Systems Is Part of a Disinformation Campaign to Restrict Consumer Rights, March 8, 2005
- Report: Tom Donohue: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Oversees Renegade Corporations While Pushing for Limits to Corporate Accountability (PDF), February 2005
- Press Release: Chamber President Tom Donohue Has Vested Interest in Campaign to Limit Consumers’ Legal Rights as Steward of Two Scandal-Marred Companies, February 21, 2005
- Letter to Sen. Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) About How the Bill to Limit Lawsuits Against Gun Industry Violates the Constitution (PDF), July 24, 2003
- Press Release: Bill to Limit Lawsuits Against Gun Industry Violates Constitution, July 24, 2003
- Press Release: Sweeping Civil Justice Legislation is Anti-Consumer, Should Be Rejected, April 14, 2003
- Press Release: Public Citizen Urges Texas Supreme Court to Overturn Ruling That Would Strand Victims of Financial Fraud, Insulate Companies, March 17, 2003
- Press Release: With Business Immunity Bill, Consumers Pay, February 16, 2000
- Press Release: Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook Condemning the Clinton-Rockefeller-Gorton Products Liability "Wrongdoers Protection Act", June 25, 1998