Torts I, Pages 372–375

Enright v. Eli Lilly & Co.

Court of Appeals of New York, 1991

Facts:

Plaintiff's grandmother ingested DES while pregnant with plaintiff's mother. Plaintiff alleges that she developed birth defects a result.

Procedural History:

Trial court dismissed plaintiff's claims. The appellate division affirmed the dismissal of the cause of action based on negligence, breach of warranty, and fraud, but reinstated the strict liability count, holding that the strong public policy in favor of providing a remedy for DES victims recognizing a strict products liability cause of action.

Issue:

Can offspring of DES victims hold the manufacturers strictly liable?

Reasoning:

  • No exception should be made just for DES victims when similar liability has been rejected in medical malpractice cases.

  • Liability must be confined within reasonable limits. Doing so does not remove the deterrent. Those injured by exposure can still recover. The FDA, too, has the primary responsibility to do so.

  • Public policy favors the availability of prescription drugs even though most carry some risks. Recognizing a legal duty to those not yet conceived may deter potential future developments in this area.

Rule/Holding:

Offspring of DES victims cannot hold the manufacturers strictly liable if they did not have exposure themselves.

Judgment:

Reversed.


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