President Obama Reverses Bush Policy Preventing Consumers From Suing Product Makers in State Courts
President Obama on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to rescind regulations enacted by former President George W. Bush's administration that protect manufacturers of such products as medical devices from product-liability lawsuits in state court, the Wall Street Journal reports. The decision could affect a wide range of manufacturers and products because the Bush administration "aggressively" encouraged federal agencies to make rules that pre-empt and override state laws, which often meant protecting manufacturers of medical equipment from lawsuits, according to the Journal.
Obama in a two-page memo wrote that federal agencies and departments could claim state law is pre-empted by federal law only when there is a well-defined legal basis. The memo stated that state laws are important because they supplement federal regulations. "State and local governments have frequently protected health, safety and environment more aggressively than has the national government," Obama wrote (Mundy/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 5/21).
Obama ordered agencies to review regulations from the past decade and look for possible occasions in which the government improperly declared federal pre-emption (Yost, AP/Kansas City Star, 5/20). According to the Journal, business groups oppose the decision (Wall Street Journal, 5/21).