Vaccine and Autism: High Court speaks

In Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts all state law design-defect claims brought by plaintiffs seeking damages for vaccine-related injury or death against vaccine manufacturers. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 is a statute that provides administrative remedies to individuals injured by a vaccine’s adverse side effects. The statute’s purpose is to create a no-fault compensation program for injured claimants. As a result, the statute insulates manufacturers from vaccine-related tort litigation and stabilizes the vaccine market. According to the Supreme Court, the Act eliminates manufacturer liability for adverse vaccine side-effects.

In Wyeth, parents sued a vaccine manufacturer after their daughter received the manufacturer’s DTP vaccine during her standard childhood immunizations and became disabled. After exhausting the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act’s administrative remedies, the parents filed suit in state court, asserting that the manufacturer’s defective design of the vaccine caused their child’s disabilities. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the vaccine manufacturer, holding that a plain reading of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts all state law products liability claims.

The doctrine of federal preemption holds that when a state law is inconsistent with federal law, federal law supersedes the state law. The Court’s preemption holding may have important implications in light of various other federal statutes that provide for an administrative scheme for filing claims, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. However, a narrow reading of this decision only requires individuals seeking redress for vaccine side effects to file an administrative claim rather than a state tort claim. For questions, contact Broussard, David & Moroux at 1-888-337-2323 (toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).

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