[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Friday reversed [opinion, PDF] and remanded a lower court ruling, reviving two lawsuits brought by Nigerian families against Pfizer [corporate website]. The consolidated lawsuits allege that Pfizer violated international law when it administered an experimental antibiotic to Nigerian children without the consent or knowledge of their patients. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] had dismissed the complaints, ruling that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) [28 U.S.C. § 1350 text] and in the alternative, on the ground of forum non conveniens. In overturning the district court's decision, the circuit court concluded:
(1) that the district court incorrectly determined that the prohibition in customary international law against nonconsensual human medical experimentation cannot be enforced through the ATS; (2) that changed circumstances in Nigeria since the filing of this appeal require re-examination of the appropriate forum, albeit on the basis of a legal analysis different from that employed by the district court; and (3) that the district court incorrectly applied Connecticut’s choice of law rules in the Adamu action.
Pfizer issued a statement [press release, PDF] following the ruling that the decision by the court was only a procedural matter, and it remanded confident it will prevail on the merits.
Pfizer also faces a lawsuit in Nigeria. In 2007, Nigerian officials filed an updated $7 billion lawsuit [BBC backgrounder] after a Nigerian court had rejected [JURIST report] Pfizer's motion to dismiss. In October 2008, Nigerian and Pfizer officials announced [JURIST report] that they hoped to reach an out of court settlement. At this time a settlement has not been reached.