Can Parents Sue For A Vaccine's Design Defect?

October 18, 2010

Last week the United States Supreme Court heard argument concerning whether parents of a girl who became sick shortly after being vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis can sue the vaccine's manufacturer. The parents allege a design defect. Nearly 5,000 potential lawsuits may result if the court allows the parents to sue, asserting a link between autism and the vaccine.

At issue - whether Congress intended to preempt state lawsuits when it enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which created a separate court and compensation scheme for those injured by vaccines.

Side effects from taking prescribed medications and vaccines can be serious.

Here, the family's six-month-old daughter developed a seizure disorder and mental disabilities shortly after receiving a dose of Wyeth's (now part of Pfizer) vaccine. The vaccine court denied their claim, citing a lack of evidence proving the vaccine caused the seizures. However, the vaccine court process does not allow discovery so whether the link existed was not fully explored. In state court, the family sued on the grounds that the vaccine was defectively designed, and that safer alternatives exists, but that Wyeth failed to market those alternatives.

Several key issues are raised, including the extent injuries caused by vaccines are "unavoidable." The outcome of this case may have a significant impact. Some fear that pharmaceutical firms will stop making vaccines due to the cost of defending design defect cases. However, without the threat of design-defect cases, manufacturers may lack the incentive to produce safer alternatives, placing profits over safety.

As New Mexico personal injury attorneys concerned about dangerous drugs, we will be following this case closely. For more information, or if you or a loved one has been
injured or suffered serious side effects as the result of a dangerous drug or vaccine, contact the Branch Law Firm for a free consultation.