On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parents of children injured by routine vaccines cannot sue the vaccine manufacturer in court for alleged drug design defects.
In the case, Hannah Bruesewitz's parents alleged that Hannah suffered from seizures and developmental delays due to a routine childhood vaccine. The Bruesewitz family first filed a claim using the no-fault compensation system set up by Congress in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA). Under the NCVIA, the families of childhood victims of vaccine injuries can get compensation for those injuries by filing a claim with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. (To learn more about the vaccine compensation system set up by the NCVIA, see Nolo's article Vaccine Injuries: The Federal Compensation Program.) When the claims court denied the Bruesewitz family's claim, the family sued the vaccine manufacturer, Wyeth, in federal court alleging that the vaccine Hannah received was defectively designed.
In the 6-2 decision (Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented), the Supreme Court ruled that the NCVIA compensation system preempted (precluded) parents from bringing design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers in court. To find otherwise, reasoned the Court, could potentially wipe out the vaccine industry.
The American Academy of Pediatrics applauded the decision as upholding the vital vaccine industry.
You can read the full decision in Nolo's Supreme Court Center: Bruesewitz v. Wyeth. And for more information check out Nolo's Personal Injury Blog post Vaccine Makers Immunized Against Many Suits, Top Court Says.