This morning, in Wyeth v. Levine, the Supreme Court held, 6-3, that federal approval of warnings on prescription drug labels does not preempt state law tort suits alleging that such warnings were inadequate. Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion, joined by the usual suspects and Justice Kennedy. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment. Justice Alito dissented, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Scalia.
This is the second time this term in which the Court has rejected industry arguments that federal law preempts state tort law claims. The Court also rejected a preemption claim in Altria v. Good. This is interesting because preemption claims fared quite well during the first three years of the Roberts Court, lending support to the idea that this Court is "pro-business." Until this year, the only preemption claim the Roberts Court had rejected was the argument that the Clean Water Act preempts punitive damages in Exxon Shipping v. Baker, but this was not much of a loss for business as, in the same decision, the Court limited the extent of such damages under the federal common law of maritime. I don't think Wyeth and Altria signal a dramatic shift in the Court's jurisprudence, but I do believe these decisions are evidence that early proclamations that the Roberts Court is a "pro-business" court were premature.