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Supreme Court Hears Arguments for Vaccine Product-Liability Case

This past Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that decides whether state courts will be allowed to hear vaccine related product liability suits. Currently, federal law created by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 precludes plaintiffs from filing design defect product liability suits against vaccine manufacturers in state court.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act created a special federal court called the Vaccine Court where vaccine injury claims are litigated. In response to large jury awards won by plaintiffs against vaccine manufacturers in the 1980's Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 and setup the Vaccine Court out of fear that herd immunity to deadly diseases would be lost and to compensate children injured by vaccines. According to the Act, vaccine manufacturers will not be held liable "if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings."

The plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court argued that their daughter's injuries were avoidable because the manufacturer had created a safer vaccine that had not yet been introduced to the market. The plaintiffs argue the vaccine their daughter received was antiquated by a more modern vaccine but the manufacturer chose to withhold the new vaccine use because it was more expensive to produce.

The plaintiffs claim that after their daughter received a diptheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine at six months of age she developed residual seizure disorder. The plaintiff's daughter now needs care for the remainder of her life and has developmental impairments. She is now a teenager.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Vaccine Makers Targeted in Lawsuit," Paula Reed Ward, 10/11/10

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