You couldn’t really tell if the unemployment figures released recently were worrying the 40 or so fresh-faced New York City area law students attending the Alliance for Justice’s luncheon. Maybe it was the chance to learn more about the Weth v. Levine case – a case that has the potential to wipe out our access to our court system or maybe it was the offer of free pizza (once a very cheap eat is becoming a far pricier nosh in this poor economy). Either way, dozens of students lined the halls waiting to get into the auditorium even before the start of the event.
Prior to viewing the film, Access Denied: The Fight for Corporate Accountability, Joanne Doroshow of the CJ&D gave a brief introduction to the important issues the film presents. Doroshow recalled her own personal experiences with the Karen Silkwood case, one of the first civil cases that set the stage for the current pre-emption struggle.
But the film itself put real faces to what would happen if the pharmaceutical industry was given complete immunity. Donald Hickey, a retired pastor from Kansas pulls down the collar of his shirt to reveal his defibrillator implanted under his skin. In 2007, that defibrillator malfunctioned and shocked him over 30 times. But because of Riegel v. Medtronic he cannot sue the device manufacturer. The film also shows Dennis Quaid testifying before Congress telling the story of the near tragedy that occurred shortly after the birth of his twins who could have both died after being given dangerous amounts of the wrong drug. But perhaps the most compelling story is of course Diana Levine, whose case Wyeth v. Levine currently rests with the U.S. Supreme Court. An engaging and charismatic former professional musician, she lost part of her arm due to complications after she was injected with a drug to treat a migraine.
After the film the students asked many detailed questions, and even lingered long after the Q&A session had ended enthusiastic to learn more and to get involved in protecting our rights to the civil justice system. Copies of the film are available though Alliance for Justice, email them about hosting a screening of the film.