Robert Rowe, who lives in Michigan, became severely depressed and attempted suicide several times after his dermatologist prescribed Accutane. Rowe brought suit in New Jersey, where the drug was manufactured by Hoffmann-La Roche. The defendants sought to apply the Michigan Products Liability Act, which creates an irrebuttable presumption that a warning label approved by the FDA is adequate as a matter of law. See M.C.L. §§600.2946(5). The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division, however, applied the New Jersey Products Liability Act, which provides only a rebuttable presumption that an FDA-approved warning is adequate. See N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-4. In conducting its choice-of-law analysis, the Court initially noted that “the goal of deterrence, acknowledged generally to be part of tort law, is especially important in the field of products-liability law.” The Court then went on to observe that “it is difficult to see how Michigan’s interest in protecting Michigan drug manufacturers would be furthered by applying its immunity statute to this case. Likewise, it is difficult to see that Michigan has any interest in protecting out-of-state manufacturers like defendants here. The motion judge’s finding that the primary purpose of the Michigan statute is to increase drug availability in Michigan is unsupported by the record. If in fact there was a shortage of drugs in Michigan at the time the statute was enacted, no evidence of such a shortage appears in the record before us. We know of no instance, and none has been cited to us, when a drug manufacturer has withheld distribution or sales of its product on account of any state’s products liability law.” The Court also considered “the compensation aspect of governmental interest analysis in this tort case, and we perceive no Michigan interest in depriving its resident of recovery. We might view plaintiff’s home state interest differently if we were confronted with a conflict of laws related to plaintiff’s own role in causing the injury, such as laws of contributory or comparative negligence” as “such a conflict would implicate the deterrence aspect of tort law as it relates both to plaintiff and defendant.” In sum, “the quality of New Jersey’s contacts in this case, when combined with its strong governmental interest in deterring the manufacture of unsafe products within its borders, substantially outweighs the countervailing Michigan contacts and governmental interests in application of the Michigan statute. Both deterrence and compensation are interests more likely to be served in this case by application of New Jersey law.” Rowe v. Hoffman-La Roche,383 N.J.Super. 442 (App. Div. 2006).
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