The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down yesterday; the Supreme Court has passed two decisions that have devastating effects for consumers. The first of these decisions was Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett. The second was Shelby County v. Holder.
Throughout the past decade attorneys across the nation have been pursuing pharmaceutical companies for their aggressive attack on patients taking generic medications. In Mutual, the Supreme Court decided that patients injured by generic drugs cannot pursue litigation against the generic drug manufacturer for the faulty design of the drug. Mutual closed the door on many of the litigations that could have moved forward with recovering for the injured that was left open to some after the Court decided Pliva v. Mensing. In Pliva, the Court decided that patients injured by generic drugs can’t pursue recovery for the pharmaceutical company having failed to warn the patient or inform the doctor effectively. In making those choices the Justices in the majority relied on the FDA’s requirement that the generic drug companies’ labeling and product be consistent with the brand-name product and that therefore, the companies could not be held liable by injuries caused by those products.
The effect of the decision in Mutual is to leave patients and consumers injured by generic drugs with no alternative and unable to pursue recovery from the generic manufacturers for their injuries. The decision Shelby County has a greater effect on the public at large.
Since 1965, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, the United States has made major strides against racial bigotry and discrimination by policing voting procedures for practices that could act as a barrier to individuals voting based on their race. In Shelby County, the Supreme Court struck down the criteria of section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. If a state was found to meet the criteria of section 4, the policing actions of section 5 would come into effect. Many commentators have been arguing in the days since the decision that it was the threat of being subject to section 5 that has caused the states subject to the Voting Rights Act to correct their policies and practices. Without section 4, the bite and sting designed to dissuade states from engaging in practices that prevent people from voting based on race are practically evacuated.
Having made a major step forward for marriage equality, it’s important to not forget the major steps back the Court took as well. The decisions announced earlier in the week will have a major negative effect on consumers and citizens. Don’t let the mainstream or corporate interests distract your attention from those facts.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.