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When law suits are filed in the State of New Jersey, the court applies New Jersey's choice-of-law rules. In tort suits, New Jersey no longer mechanistically apply the law of the place of wrong. Instead, New Jersey subscribes to the more flexible governmental-interests analysis. In applying the governmental-interests analysis, two steps are involved. The first step in the analysis is to determine whether a conflict exists between the laws of the interested states. Any such conflict is to be determined on an issue-by-issue basis. If there is no actual conflict, then the choice-of-law question is inconsequential, and the forum state applies its own law to resolve the disputed issue. If there is an actual conflict, the second step seeks to determine the interest that each state has in resolving the specific issue in dispute. The court must identify the governmental policies underlying the law of each state and determine whether those policies are affected by each state's contacts to the litigation and to the parties. The court must apply the law of the state with the greatest interest in governing the particular issue.
Accutane was approved by the FDA to treat acne. In 1997, a Michigan physician prescribed Accutane to Plaintiff Robert Rowe. After taking the drug for three months, Rowe became depressed and contemplated suicide. He obtained psychiatric treatment in Michigan and Ohio. Rowe brought suit in New Jersey because, under Michigan law, the FDA approval of the drug resulted in a conclusive determination that the health risk warnings issued by defendants regarding the drug were adequate.
Does Michigan law apply to the failure-to-warn claim brought by a Michigan resident alleging injuries in Michigan involving an FDA-approved prescription drug prescribed and used in Michigan?
The court, after comparing Michigan's and New Jersey's governmental interests in resolving the adequacy-to-warn issue, concluded that Michigan's interest was paramount and its conclusive presumption applied. As such, Rowe’s suit was precluded in New Jersey.