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Supreme Court rules for Pharmaceutical Company in vaccine Dispute

The Supreme Court ruled for drug manufacturers 2/22/11, deciding that a case brought by a Pennsylvania family who says their child was injured by a vaccine cannot be heard outside of a court created to hear such claims.
  • The so-called “vaccine court” which has handled such disputes, was designed to ensure a reliable, steady supply of vaccines by reducing the threat of expensive lawsuits against pharmaceutical firms;
  • Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said congressional ambiguity in the law played a part in their conclusions;
  • “The lack of guidance for design defects [in the drugs] combined with the extensive guidance for the grounds of liability specifically mentioned in the act strongly suggests that design defects were not mentioned because they are not a basis for liability,” he wrote. (HWM and CNN)

The Bottom Line: At issue was whether such liability claims can proceed in separate state courts, if the vaccine-related injuries could have been “avoided” by better product design and if federal officials had approved another, allegedly safer drug. “Taxing vaccine manufacturers’ product to fund the compensation program, while leaving their liability for design defects virtually unaltered, would be an odd way to make vaccine manufacture more effective,” said Scalia.