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Time to Reclaim the Seventh Amendment


Should the government be allowed to require citizens to receive a medical product if the product’s manufacturer is shielded from legal liability? 

That is the question in front of multiple state legislatures. 

In North Dakota, HB 1406 proposes preventing state agencies from requiring vaccines “unless the manufacturer of the medical product is liable for any death or serious injury caused by the medical product.” The West Virginia legislature is considering a similar bill

In “How Government Insulated Big Pharma from Liability,” I discuss how the federal government effectively sold the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial to the largest lobbying force in the country, Big Pharma. 

Citizens cannot sue vaccine manufacturers for harms resulting from the Covid shots because of HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s invocation of the PREP Act in February 2020. 

This transferred power from the citizenry to the nation’s ruling class and exchanged a constitutional right for a corporate liability shield. 

Now, some state legislators are seeking to prohibit mandatory medical treatment unless the manufacturer of the product can be held liable for injuries. These lawmakers have an opportunity to promote the legal rights of their citizens and to restore a primary purpose of the Seventh Amendment. 

The Opposition 

Understandably, pharmaceutical companies oppose these measures. Their most profitable products received a federal liability shield, resulting in record profits. 

In 2022, Pfizer’s annual revenue reached $100 billion; the company’s Covid products – including vaccines and Paxlovid – accounted for $57 billion of that income. 

Federal purchases of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA Covid vaccines have totalled more than $25 billion. The government paid Moderna $2.5 billion of taxpayer funds to develop the vaccine, and President Biden called on local leaders to use public money to bribe citizens to get the shots.

These pharmaceutical companies represent the largest lobbying force in the country. From 2020 to 2022, the pharmaceutical and health products industry spent $1 billion on lobbying – more than the combined spending of the oil, gas, alcohol, gambling, farming, and defense industries during that time frame.

But it’s not just Big Pharma CFOs and shareholders that oppose bills like HB 1406 in North Dakota. 

Over 25 people testified in support of HB 1406, compared to just 4 in opposition (one of whom opposed the bill because she opposes mandates regardless of liability status). 

Kylie Hall, Operations Director of the North Dakota State University Department Public Health Center for Immunization Research and Education, was one of the three others who testified against the bill.

Hall represents that failed ideology that has dominated our draconian Covid responses for three years.

She has been very public in her support for Covid vaccinations. In February 2021, she told NBC News, “Vaccinating against Covid-19 is the only way out of this pandemic.” 

She encouraged North Dakotans to rush to receive the products rather than exercise patience and wait to receive the vaccine best suited for their health needs. 

“The best covid vaccine to get is the first one that’s available to you and that is because it will prevent covid and severe disease now,” Hall said. “People should not wait until their preferred product comes to market.” 

Her vaccination demands extended to campus. In April 2021, she discussed the need to get students at NDSU vaccinated against Covid. She said the pharmaceutical products were necessary to “get back to normal.” 

Hall worked for two years to have as many North Dakotans take the Covid vaccines as possible regardless of age, medical history, or natural immunity. During that time period, Big Pharma enjoyed windfalls from the mandated products without the accountability of legal liability.

Hall told the North Dakota legislature that she opposes HB 1406 because of the “rigorous processes behind vaccine development and safety monitoring in this country and the incredibly high standards that vaccines are held to.” According to Hall, these factors make the bill “unnecessary.” 

Like her history of Covid policy proposals, Hall’s narrative is both illogical and false. First, if the profitable vaccines are as safe as she promises, then the companies won’t have to worry about lawsuits from adverse reactions. 

Second, the mRNA products were not held to “incredibly high standards.” 

Operation Warp Speed turned our Covid vaccination effort into a lucrative military operation. The Department of Defense helped develop the technology, manufacture the products, distribute the doses, and administer the shots. Meanwhile, taxpayers bankrolled the program and the federal government’s billion dollar propaganda efforts

As Philip Altman writes, this military operation bypassed traditional regulatory safeguards. 

“In the panic to develop the COVID-19 vaccines, certain critical research and development procedures were omitted, bypassed, curtailed, or not done in a logical sequential manner, or to established laboratory or manufacturing standards.” 

While traditional development and approval of vaccines takes approximately 10 years, the Covid shots came to market in under one year under Operation Warp Speed.

Further, the vaccines have not functioned as promised, and the potential health ramifications may be severe.

For example, we now know that vaccines do not prevent infection, do not prevent transmission, and do not prevent death, all of which government officials touted at various points in their propaganda campaigns. Meanwhile, the vaccines cross the blood-brain barrier, their lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) enter into liver cells and convert to DNA, and their synthetic mRNA can last for two months in the body, all of which officials denied.

After years of censorship and manipulation, the question before North Dakota and West Virginia remains simple: should the State be allowed to mandate these products if the companies cannot be held liable for their lucrative inventions? 

After three years of misleading the American public on Covid policy, advocates like Hall are working to continue the subversion of citizens’ right to demand accountability from the country’s most powerful commercial interests 

An Opportunity to Restore the Seventh Amendment

As I explain in my previous article, the Seventh Amendment’s right to a jury trial was designed to protect common citizens against commercial powers that would otherwise corrupt the judicial system for their own benefit. 

From Sir William Blackstone to the Declaration of Independence to Anti-Federalist pamphleteers, Anglo-American legal tradition understood the role of the jury system in establishing justice and accountability. 

Centuries later, we have returned to a system that denies citizens the right to jury trials for the benefit of commercial interests. 

This has coincided with a revolving door between the pharmaceutical industry and the top levels of the US government. 

Alex Azar, President Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary responsible for providing liability immunity for Covid vaccine manufacturers, previously served as president of Eli Lilly’s US division.

Scott Gottlieb resigned as President Trump’s Commissioner of the FDA to join the board of Pfizer. There, he works with Big Tech to censor critics and advocate for lockdowns.

White House Counselor Steve Richetti, one of President Biden’s “most loyal advisers” according to the New York Times, worked as a lobbyist for Novartis, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer for twenty years. 

In 2018, Kaiser Health News found “Nearly 340 former congressional staffers now work for pharmaceutical companies or their lobbying firms.” 

Now, states have the opportunity to reestablish the principles underlying the Seventh Amendment. In West Virginia, HB 2936 aims to “prohibit mandatory medical treatments unless the manufacturer of the product is liable.”

This can help prevent the country’s most influential companies from profiting without the accountability of jury trials and can start to redress the corporate-enriching distortion of our legal system.

Many Republican leaders have publicized their opposition to mandates and demanded accountability for pharmaceutical companies. Now, the GOP has the opportunity to affirm its commitment to the justice of the Seventh Amendment and to demand liability for Big Pharma’s most lucrative products. 

In West Virginia, Republicans outnumber Democrats 88 to 12 in the House and 31 to 3 in the State Senate. The numbers are similar in North Dakota, where there are 82 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the State House and 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats in the State Senate. 

If Republican officials in these states wanted to pass these measures, they would have no trouble. Yet, the bills have yet to make progress. 

North Dakota’s House Human Services Committee recommended against passing HB 1406 by a vote of 9 to 4. West Virginia’s HB 2936 has not left committee. 

If Republican legislators don’t take action, their citizens will continue to lose their legal rights to pharmaceutical companies and bureaucrats whose opinions have repeatedly been disproven and discredited.

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  • William Spruance

    William Spruance is a practicing attorney and a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. The ideas expressed in the article are entirely his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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