Supreme Court Rejects Vaccine Lawsuits

Posted February 23, 2011 in Products Liability by Arthur Buono

The Supreme Court yesterday put a lid on so-called "design defect" lawsuits against vaccine makers. As a result, if you or your child is injured by a vaccine side effect you must look to a special fund for compensation.

  • Supreme Court says no to lawsuits for vaccine side effects
  • Victims must seek compensation from special vaccine-injury fund
  • Design defect lawsuits may improve product safety
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Vaccines Inoculated Against Design Defect Claims

In this case an infant received a vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. She developed seizures and remains mentally impaired nearly 20 years later. Her parents wanted compensation from the vaccine maker.

In 1986 Congress set up a special program to compensate victims who claim injury from vaccines. As a trade-off, it banned lawsuits against the vaccine maker for "unavoidable side effects." According to the Court, this includes claims that a vaccine could have been designed more safely to eliminate the side effects.

Defective design is one kind of products liability claim. It holds a manufacturer responsible for trading off safety for profits in designing a product. What the injured party seeks in suing is in a sense part of those profits the manufacturer earned by deciding not to make a more costly, but safer, product.

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