High court to decide if vaccine makers can be sued
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WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether drugmakers can be sued over alleged harm from vaccines.
The case the high court agreed to hear involves parents from Pittsburgh, Pa., who are seeking damages from Wyeth, now a unit of Pfizer Inc., over harm they say their then-infant daughter experienced from the company's diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Robalee and Russell Bruesewitz, saying a federal law, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, shields vaccine companies from most civil liability.
The 1986 law says vaccine makers cannot be held liable for injuries that "resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings."
In their lawsuit, the Pennsylvania family alleges that Hannah Bruesewitz was an otherwise healthy infant until she received the vaccine in April 1992, at six-months of age.
They say that within hours of getting the DPT injection, little Hannah suffered a series of seizures, and now a teenager, scontinues to suffer from seizure disorder.
They filed a petition for compensation in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The claim was rejected. They then filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania court alleging that Wyeth could have marketed a safer vaccine but opted not to do so. The claims were all rejected under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
In a statement, Pfizer said it was hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
"Pfizer is pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to resolve this legal issue, which is of critical importance to national public health policy," the New York-based company said.
The case is Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, 09-152.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at email@example.com.
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