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In a closely watched decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that higher federal standards of evidence should be applied in product liability litigation, giving a boost to drug makers because so many lawsuits are filed in the state by people who claim they were harmed by medicines.

The ruling came in a long-running case involving a Roche (RHHBY) acne drug that was blamed for causing Crohn’s disease in more than 2,100 lawsuits filed against the drug maker. At issue were scientific studies the company sought to use to defeat the lawsuits, which prompted competing arguments over differing standards for assessing the validity of the studies and, in particular, expert testimony.


The Supreme Court decided a trial judge had properly excluded testimony from experts, who used “novel” theories to argue Roche submitted epidemiological studies that failed to show its Accutane drug did not cause an increased risk of Crohn’s disease. An appeals court overturned that decision, but the Supreme Court determined the scientific theories cited by the plaintiffs’ experts were insufficient.

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