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Wyeth Inc. v. Weeks, ‘Innovator Liability,’ and Alabama’s Road to Tort Hell


Prior to 1994, Alabama was widely perceived as a “tort hell,” a place where judges and juries actively looked to shift liability to perceived “deep pocket” defendants. The hellish days were marked by outlandish punitive-damage awards, dodgy procedures, and plaintiff-friendly legal doctrines. Most notoriously, in BMW v. Gore, the Alabama supreme court affirmed a $2 million punitive-damages award on the grounds that BMW had touched up a car’s paint job without disclosing it, reducing the vehicle’s value by $4,000, meaning that the damages were awarded in a ratio of 500:1. Class-action lawyers got their plaintiff classes approved simply by dropping by a judge’s office, a procedure that came to be known as “drive-by” certification. Plaintiffs in consumer-fraud cases just had to show that they justifiably relied on what they were told, not that they acted reasonably. . . .
Continue reading at National Review Online