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Federal Preemption of State Tort Law

Tuesday December 2008


Richard Epstein Visiting Scholar, Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Peter and Kirstin Bedford Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

On the Supreme Court’s docket this term are two significant business cases that both involve the extent to which federal laws and regulations preempt state common law tort actions. In the first, Wyeth v. Levine, the Court must consider whether the Food and Drug Administration’s extensive review of labeling for pharmaceuticals preempts certain state lawsuits that allege the company’s labeling “failed to warn” consumers adequately of risks. In the second, Altria v. Good, the Court will determine whether states can impose “consumer fraud” liability on cigarette manufacturers for labeling their products as “light” or “low tar,” when such descriptors were used in compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

In his final talk at the Manhattan Institute this year's fall season, visiting scholar Richard A. Epstein will examine in depth the question of when federal laws and regulations should be deemed to preempt state tort lawsuits. Professor Epstein has long written on issues of liability, and his talk should shed light on these vital questions of law and business facing our nation’s highest court.