Friday, January 30, 2009
Second Circuit Revives Nigerian Families' Claims Against Pfizer Over Drug Tests
Law.com reports today that a divided federal appeals court has revived the claims of 88 African families for billions of dollars in damages under the Alien Torts Statute arguing that Pfizer subjected their children to medical experimentation without their consent in a Nigerian hospital during a 1996 meningitis outbreak. The opinion is available here. The majority and the dissenting opinions differed over whether the families' claims fall within the Alien Torts Statute which gives foreigners the right to raise tort claims in federal court to vindicate violations of "the laws of nations." In concluding that the law embraces claims of unconsented medical experimentation, Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote for the majority that the dissent took an approach to "customary" international law that is "unselfconsciously reactionary and static." In dissent, Judge Richard C. Wesley described the majority as creating a new norm "out of whole cloth" upon the basis of "materials inadequate to the task."