Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Law Suit of the Day

Last week, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a suit seeking to hold manufacturers of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicine responsible for the consequences of "cooks" that illegally make methamphetamines with the products. Ashley County v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 08-1491 (8th Cir. Jan. 5, 2009). The case was brought by 20 Arkansas counties seeking "to recoup the costs expended by the counties in dealing with the societal effects of the methamphetamine epidemic."

The fact that lawful products can be unlawfully misused doesn't make the manufacturers liable for subsequent crimes, as Judge Hansen held for the Eighth Circuit (at 15):
The criminal actions of the methamphetamine cooks and those further down the illegal line of manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine are "sufficient to stand as the cause of the injury" to the Counties in the form of increased government services, and they are "totally independent" of the Defendants' actions of selling cold medicine to retail stores.
The better-reasoned gun makers-suits say the same. E.g. City of Philadelphia v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 277 F.3d 415 (3d Cir. 2002). This seems clearly correct--imagine the opposite conclusion applied to car makers. I can poke your eye out with a pen--should Bic be liable?

But I'll bet if the case had arisen in the 9th Circuit--where at least one gun liability case went for the plaintiffs--it could have come out the other way.

(via Volokh Conspiracy)

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