THE BLOG

Bush Administration Made Complete Immunity for Negligent Corporations a Top Priority

11/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In the past three years federal agencies, under the direction of Bush administration officials and with the blessing of corporate America, have engaged in a campaign to hand corporations a 'get-out-of jail-free' pass when their products have harmed consumers. According to a report released by the American Association for Justice, seven federal agencies (FDA, CPSC, NHTSA, FRA, DHS, PHMSA, and TSA) have included language in federal regulations that give corporations complete immunity preemption. The effect has been to usurp stricter state laws and rob citizens of their right to justice after they have been injured by a hazardous product.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, AAJ obtained correspondence between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and numerous federal agencies that show OMB drafted preemption language for agencies to include in their rules, language that gives corporations a free pass to make dangerous products and escape any responsibility for harming consumers.

The lasting effect is yet to be determined, with the Supreme Court soon to weigh in when they take up the issue next month with Wyeth v. Levine. Diana Levine was injected with a drug that the manufacturer knew could cause gangrene and even possible amputation when injected incorrectly. Yet the company did not update the warning label to warn about the possible side effects they knew about. Instead, Wyeth is claiming since the FDA approved the warning labeling, they are shielded from any wrong-doing.

Protecting consumers has always required both strong government regulations and a strong civil justice system to keep greedy corporations in check. In fact, Attorneys General from 47 states agree and have filed a brief in the Wyeth v. Levine case. The AGs argue preemption clauses break with decades of historical precedence that have relied on a strong civil justice system to compliment federal agency protections to keep consumers safe.

We only need to look at the recent recalls of spinach, toys with lead, meat, pet food, and toothpaste to know the government alone cannot ensure all drugs, food, and other consumer products are safe. Preemption not only gives corporations an escape from misconduct, but takes away the incentive for manufacturers to compete with one another to make products safer. When political appointees interfere and grant corporations complete immunity from making harmful products, everyone suffers. The constitutional right to fight for justice in a court of law must be preserved. The Bush legacy must not be "get-out-of-jail-free" for corporate irresponsibility.