Dismissal Of Claims Alleging Injury From Use Of Lipitor
In Devore v. Pfizer, Inc., 867 N.Y.S.2d 425, 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 09194 (2008), Michigan citizens sued Pfizer, Inc. (“Pfizer”) for alleged injuries resulting from the use of Lipitor. Pfizer moved to dismiss the complaints, asserting that Michigan law governed Plaintiffs’ claims because Plaintiffs were Michigan residents claiming personal injuries resulting from their use of Lipitor in Michigan. Pfizer argued that the application of Michigan’s products liability statute, Mich. Comp Laws §600.2946(5), required the actions be dismissed as a matter of law, because the statute shields pharmaceutical companies from liability in products liability actions if the suit involves an FDA-approved drug such as Lipitor.
In its analysis, the Court stated that New York’s Choice of Law analysis, which is commonly referred to as an interest analysis, involves several steps and focuses on determining which jurisdiction “because of its relationship or contact with the occurrence or the parties, has the greatest concern with the specific issue raised in the litigation.” Cooney v. Osgood Mach., 81 N.Y.2d 66, 72 (1993), quoting Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y.2d 473, 481 (1963). Moreover, this analysis addresses two inquires: “(1) what are the significant contacts and in which jurisdiction are they located, and (2) whether the purpose of the law is to regulate conduct or allocate loss.” Padula v. Lilarn Props. Corp., 84 N.Y.2d 519, 521 (1994), citing Schultz v. Boy Scouts of Am., 65 N.Y.2d 189, 197 (1985).
The Court noted that loss-allocating rules apply once there is admittedly tortious conduct, while conduct-regulating rules are those which people use as a guide to govern their primary conduct. See Schultz, 65 N.Y.2d at 198; K.T. v. Dash, 37 A.D.3d 107, 112-113 (2006). The Michigan statute in question, since it in effect dictates the standard of care required for a product liability claim against a pharmaceutical company, see Taylor v. Smithkline Beecham Corp., 468 Mich. 1, 19, 658 N.W.2d 127, 137 (2003), falls within the category of conduct-regulating rather than loss-allocating. When the purpose of the statute is to regulate conduct, “the law of the jurisdiction has the greatest interest in regulating behavior within its borders.” See Cooney v. Osgood Mac., 81 N.Y.2d at 72. The locus of a tort is generally defined as the place of the injury. See Schultz v. Boy Scouts of Am., 65 N.Y.2d at 195.
The Court stated that the place of injury was not “adventitious,” and application of the general rule that the locus of the tort is the place of Plaintiffs’ injury was fully warranted. Lastly, the Court noted that Michigan has far greater significant contacts with the litigation than New York; not only do Plaintiffs live and work in Michigan, but the alleged injuries occurred in Michigan. Id.
New York courts will dismiss a Complaint under another state’s laws when a choice of law analysis favors the other state. Several factors are considered in a choice of law analysis and thus should be considered on a case by case basis.