The AP (10/13, Sherman) reports, “The Supreme Court is trying to sort out whether drug companies can be sued for claims of serious side effects from childhood vaccines without driving vaccine makers from the market and risking a public health crisis.” The Justices “heard arguments Tuesday in an appeal filed by Pittsburgh-area parents who want to sue drug maker Wyeth…for the health problems they say their 18-year-old daughter suffered from a vaccine she received in infancy,” and “several” of them “appeared sympathetic to the parents’ plea to be allowed to make their case in court.”
AFP (10/13) reports that “the justices have agreed to decide whether the case can proceed despite a law that largely exempts the makers of vaccines from liability, which the industry said was needed to encourage drugmakers to continue producing the products.”
The Christian Science Monitor (10/13, Richey) says that “the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 granted drug companies immunity from certain lawsuits over vaccine-related injuries or deaths. The law mandates that legal action is preempted ‘if 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 Monitor notes that “the dispute revolves around the use of the word ‘unavoidable.’”
USA Today (10/13, Biskupic) notes that “the US government is siding with Wyeth. Because of the government’s role, Justice Elena Kagan, who had been US solicitor general, did not take part.” If a 4-4 decision ensues, “the ruling against the parents would stand, but no standard for other cases would be set.”
The National Law Journal (10/13, Mauro) reports that David Frederick, a partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, is representing the family of Hannah Bruesewitz in the case, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth. Wyeth is represented by Kathleen Sullivan. Frederick ended “his argument by urging the Court to leave open a limited avenue for litigation to redress “the most horrifying and horrible injuries” that result from the vaccines that society ‘compels children to take.’”
SCOTUS to hear key vaccine case. The New York Times (10/12, Meier) reports, “The safety of vaccines is at the heart of a case expected to be heard on Tuesday by the United States Supreme Court, one that could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits that contend there is a link between vaccines and autism.” At issue “is whether a no-fault system established by Congress about 25 years ago to compensate children and others injured by commonly used vaccines should protect manufacturers from virtually all product liability lawsuits. The Supreme Court review “revolves around the narrow question of whether Congress in passing the Vaccine Act intended to bar lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers based on so-called design defect claims.” Those “filing briefs arguing that Congress intended to permit such lawsuits include the American Association for Justice, a plaintiffs’ lawyers group, and the National Vaccine Information Center, an advocacy group.” The “biggest effect of the court’s ruling, lawyers said, will be on hundreds of pending lawsuits that contend a link exists between childhood vaccines and autism.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.