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House Democrats introduce plan to repeal drug liability law

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Democrats in the state House want to get rid of a law they say protects drug companies that knowingly make or sell harmful drugs.

They introduced bills that would repeal a law that gives drug companies immunity from lawsuits. That law grants immunity over drugs that have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Bill sponsor, Representative Brian Elder, D-Bay City, said if a drug is later recalled or showed to be harmful, the current law means people can’t sue – and that is not OK.

“Simply having FDA approval does not guarantee that the drug maker did not act negligently or without malice,” he said. “And when that happens or our people are hurt, something must be done.”

But supporters of the law say it helps prevent frivolous lawsuits. Wendy Block is with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. She said Michigan residents can still sue drug companies, they just have to go through an administrative hearing process first and show that there was wrongdoing.

“We do think it is appropriate because it tries to strike a balance between just opening the floodgate to lawsuits and providing recourse for people who do believe they have injury,” she said.

Michigan has been in the midst of an opioid crisis for years. Dozens of Michigan communities are in the middle of lawsuits against opioid makers to try and get back some of the money they’ve spent on the epidemic. House Democratic Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said those counties’ lawsuits could be thrown out because of Michigan’s law.

“That’s another reason, another pressure point on why we need to act,” he said.

The bills are waiting for action in the state House.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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