I’ve been tracking — and participating in — Supreme Court product liability preemption cases for more than twenty years. They have involved all sorts of federally regulated products, ranging from drugs & medical devices to pesticides to seatbelts. Despite an enormous amount of brain racking, I still can’t figure out how to reconcile the Court’s decisions in these cases, much less predict how the Court will rule in future product liability preemption appeals.
Some of the cases involve federal statutes that contain express preemption provisions, and others involve the doctrine of implied conflict preemption. Over the years, the Court, often in split or fragmented opinions, has come down both ways on federal preemption of product liability claims. Two opinions issued during the last week of February illustrate this unpredictability. Readers of this blog might be interested in my short analyses of Bruesewitz v. Wyeth (vaccines) and Williamson v. Mazda (seatbelts).