Supreme Court Rules Vaccine Firms Protected From Lawsuits

On February 22, 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (Vaccine Act or Act) shields vaccine manufacturers from product liability suits alleging defects in a vaccine’s design. The 6-2 decision in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC affirmed that the only way parents can be compensated for the negative side effects that in rare cases accompany vaccinations is to go before a special tribunal set up by Congress to decide vaccine-injury claims. That program, established under the Vaccine Act, pays “no fault” monetary awards to individuals found to be injured by vaccines subject to the Act. This compensation program is secured by a trust fund supported by an excise tax on each vaccine dose. Fast adjudication is made possible by the Act’s Vaccine Injury Table, which lists the vaccines covered by the Act; describes each vaccine’s compensable, adverse side effects; and indicates how soon after vaccination those side effects should first manifest themselves. Claimants who show that a listed injury occurred at the appropriate time are entitled to “no fault” compensation. Unlike in tort actions, claimants are not required to show that the administered vaccine was defectively manufactured, labeled, or designed.

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