Legislation that would pour billions of dollars into the production of vaccines against avian flu and other pandemic diseases is threatened by the trial lawyers' lobby, which objects to proposed limits onlawsuits against drug manufacturers.
Republican congressional leaders, acting at the urging of President Bush, hope to approve a measure soon that would appropriate about $7 billion to pay for vaccines that would combat a flu epidemic and biological attacks by terrorists. The bill could begin moving on Capitol Hill this week.
But the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and some of its Democratic allies in Congress are working to scuttle or drastically transform the effort, asserting that anti-lawsuit language in the bill would so broadly indemnify pharmaceutical companies against suits that consumers' rights would be denied.
I agree that protection against frivolous lawsuits (ones for reasons other than willful misconduct) is needed, to eliminate very legitimate fears of lawsuits. (Consider those who claim thimersol in vaccines causes autism, when study after study shows increasing diagnoses of autism after thimersol was banned.) It's sad that no good deed goes unpunished.
For example, I'd like to see restaurants and food services give their leftover food to homeless shelters, so that this food wouldn't go to waste.
Contrary to ATLA's assertions, Call said the wording under discussion would affect only companies that manufacture vaccines that counter pandemics officially declared national emergencies.
Here's where it's readily apparent that I'm not a politician. If the ATLA thinks that the protection for vaccine manufacturers is a ploy to protect companies in a more broad manner, here's what they should do:
1. Publish the language currently in the law.
2. Demonstrate (with references to settled case law) that the language would be used to prevent more lawsuits than the Republicans claim.
3. Provide revised language that corrects the problem.
I put the onus on the ATLA to prove its case with the steps outlined above. If they fail to do so, I will be forced to conclude that they are stretching the truth, at best.