How to Sue a Drug Company for Wrongful Death

People that consume prescription drugs and medications are vulnerable to suffering severe injuries or death. These deaths give rise to lawsuits involving claims of wrongful death and product liability. There are three legal theories under which people can sue a drug company for wrongful death. However, drug companies have vast financial resources, which they use to defend themselves against a variety of lawsuits.  

Product Liability and Pharmaceutical Companies

Lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies fall under the umbrella of product liability laws. Product liability claims are often asserted against manufacturers. There are three legal theories under which a pharmaceutical company can be sued for wrongful death.

First, a victim can assert a simple negligence claim. To win a negligence claim, a victim must prove the pharmaceutical company knew or should have known of the drug’s defects and failed to protect victims who could have foreseeably consumed the drug. Second, a victim can sue for a breach of a written or implied warranty. Finally, a victim can sue on the basis of strict liability.  

Strict Liability and Pharmaceutical Companies

Unlike other legal claims, negligence does not have to be proven in a strict liability claim. While manufacturers have a duty to ensure that a product is reasonably suitable for use by its intended consumers, an injured victim must only prove that the product was unreasonably dangerous and caused his or her injury. Depending on the facts of your case, there are three different legal theories under which you can pursue a strict liability claim. 

First, you can sue a pharmaceutical company on the basis of a design defect. A drug is defectively designed if there is a flaw in the way the drug was developed or has a chemical ingredient with side effects that are known to be dangerous. A design defect can be seen with Zantac and cancer causing ingredients. People mistakenly believe that the Food and Drug Administration rigorously tests drugs before allowing them to be sold on the open market. The reality is that the Food and Drug Administration relies on tests and data provided by pharmaceutical companies. Because pharmaceutical companies are driven by profit, their testing methods and data may not always be reliable. As a result, pharmaceutical companies develop and sell a variety of dangerous medications. Second, you can claim that a drug is defective based on the way it is manufactured. Under a defective manufacturing theory, you must prove that the production method made the drug unreasonably dangerous. Finally, you can sue a drug company on the basis of defective marking. This is also known as a failure to warn claim. Under this theory, a pharmaceutical company can be held liable if it misrepresented the potential dangers of the drug. Prescription drugs can be dangerous, and these dangers must be sufficiently disclosed by pharmaceutical companies.  

Illinois Wrongful Death Laws and Financial Compensation       

Pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and Illinois Survival Act, surviving family members can file a legal claim against a pharmaceutical company. Under the Wrongful Death Act, qualified family members can sue a pharmaceutical company for negligence. The Wrongful Death Act allows surviving kin to seek damages based on their emotional grief, and the loss of economic support they suffered from the decedent’s death. The Survival Act allows the victim’s estate to pursue the personal injury claim that the decedent could have pursued had they not died.

The victim’s estate is entitled to claim the victim’s economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the medical expenses the victim incurred due to consuming the defective drug. Additionally, the victim’s lost wages can also be claimed as economic damages. The victim’s estate can also seek non-economic damages based on the pain and suffering the victim endured as a result of consuming the defective drug. If the victim’s estate obtains a financial judgment or settlement, it is distributed according to the victim’s will. If the victim died without a will, the money is distributed to surviving family members according to Illinois State Law.

How Do I Prove a Wrongful Death Case?

To prove a wrongful death case, you have to prove all the elements of your claim by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%. For example, if you are pursuing a claim against a pharmaceutical company, you have to prove that the drug was defectively designed, advertised, or manufactured. Pharmaceutical companies retain aggressive defense attorneys who often argue the drug is not defective, or the drug did not cause the victim’s death. 

Should You Hire a Lawyer to Sue a Drug Company for Wrongful Death?

You should retain a wrongful death lawyer if you are pursuing a wrongful death claim against a pharmaceutical company. Due to the legally complex nature of product liability and wrongful death claims, skilled representation is essential. The Food and Drug Administration’s testing and approval process typically result in government agencies and pharmaceutical companies maintaining extensive records regarding the development and testing of drugs and medications. Due to the voluminous and complicated nature of these records, a detailed investigation is necessary. An attorney can help you obtain crucial evidence to build and prepare a successful lawsuit. 

Is There a Loophole for Generic Drugs?

There is a loophole for generic drugs. Lawsuits for product liability claims against Pharmaceutical companies are usually asserted under State law. The Food and Drug Administration requires generic manufacturers to have identical labels to the brand name pharmaceutical companies that developed the original drug. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a generic manufacturer could not be sued for providing insufficient warnings of the dangers associated with a drug. In sum, the Supreme Court ruled that because the Food and Drug Administration only required generic companies to have identical labels to the original manufacturer, lawsuits brought under state law are preempted, or overruled by Federal law.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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