Supreme Court to consider vaccine case that could have implications for lawsuits linking vaccines to autism
October 13, 2010 – The safety of vaccines will be the focus of a pivotal case set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next week over the correlation between vaccines and an abnormally high rate of autism.
The central issue to be considered is whether a no-fault system initiated over two decades ago to compensate individuals injured by common vaccines should insulate drugmakers from product liability lawsuits.
Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, legal claims typically proceed through a “vaccine court,” where an individual is compensated if their injury is one of those officially recognized as caused by a vaccine. The act stated that the victim could choose to reject the award and sue the drugmaker, but would face severe legal hurdles to deter such actions.
Lawyers content that the biggest effect on the court’s ruling will be on the hundreds of lawsuits currently pending that argue that a link exists between childhood vaccines and autism. The vaccine court does not generally recognize autism-related cases as qualifying for compensation.
$154 million was paid in fiscal 2010 to 154 claimants involved in vaccine court proceedings. That figure was significantly higher than in preceding years, and reflected several unusually high awards. Federal data indicates that in the five preceding fiscal years, an average of $68 million in compensation was paid out on an annual basis.