Court to weigh vaccine-injury lawsuits

March 8, 2010 at 1:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to review whether a federal law gives vaccine makers protection from some product-liability lawsuits.

The case arises from a Pennsylvania lawsuit filed by parents who said their 6-month-old daughter developed residual seizure disorder after receiving a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine made by Wyeth, now a unit of Pfizer Inc., The Wall Street Journal reported.

Now a teenager, the daughter has profound developmental problems and needs care for the rest of her life, the suit says.

But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled last year that the state-court suit was pre-empted by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which among other things gave vaccine manufacturers immunity from some lawsuits, the Journal said.

Under the law, a vaccine maker could not be sued if an injury from a vaccine caused unavoidable side effects even if the vaccine was properly made and directions and warnings were included.

Wyeth denied its vaccine caused the injuries, and has argued that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Pennsylvania family and lets the suit proceed it will cause a flood of lawsuits, something Congress wanted to prevent with the law.

The case should be heard this spring or early next fall.

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