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Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Kids’ Health, Accountability

By | Briefly Legal, Health Care | No Comments

Hans von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation explains why the Supreme Court’s 6-2 opinion released Tuesday in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth is so important to children’s health. From “Supreme Court Ruling On Vaccines Keeps Kids Safe“:

I don’t usually feel a personal connection to a Supreme Court decision, but as the parent of three children, I was elated (and relieved) to see the Court come to the right conclusion today in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth. The Court’s holding that state tort suits against vaccine manufacturers are preempted by federal law is absolutely crucial to maintaining the continued availability of the many vaccines that protect the lives and health of tens of millions of Americans, particular school-age children like mine.

Hans notes the collapse of the “vaccines-cause autism” claims, which were even mocked recently in Doonesbury.

Pfizer, which now owns Wyeth, issued a news release on the ruling Tuesday, “U.S. Supreme Court Decision In Bruesewitz V. Wyeth A Win For Public Health.”

For extensive commentary on the ruling and federal preemption, including the relevance to manufacturers, see Jim Beck’s discussion at the Drug and Device Law Blog, “Notes on Bruesewitz.” Beck is really good.

1) Express preemption has more friends on the Court than implied preemption.
(2) The great DTP versus DPT controversy has been definitively settled in favor of DTP. As we recall from doing vaccine cases pre-Act, that’s a defense win.
(3) Vaccines have successfully staked a claim to the ultimate public good in our sandbox, and the Supreme Court knows it.
(4) Vaccine manufacturers were “immunized” from warning claims before (assuming compliance) and with design claims now barred, the only thing really left for a non-listed-injury vaccine plaintiff is a defective manufacture/violation claim. This result could create pressure to list more injuries as within the program.

Beck makes 22 points in all.

UPDATE Wall Street Journal editorializes, concluding: “The trial bar has preyed on parents, especially those of autistic children, by telling them someone is to blame for their child’s diagnosis. Study after scientific study has debunked these claims, and the Supreme Court’s decision will at least prevent the lawyers from cashing in by exploiting heartache.”

Supreme Court Affirms Federal Preemption in Vaccine Case

By | Briefly Legal | One Comment

The Supreme Court this morning decided an important case dealing with federal preemption, issuing a 6-2 opinion in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth that reaffirms Congress’ intent to protect vaccine manufacturers from speculative lawsuits in state courts.

Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 that explicitly preempted all design-defect claims made under state product liability laws. At the same time, the law also created a no-fault compensation program — the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program — that allowed those parties injured by unavoidable vaccine side effects to either apply to the fund for compensation or reject such compensation and sue for damages in court.

The Court’s ruling means that the suits cannot claim defective design of the vaccine but must entail defective manufacture or warnings. Written by Justice Scalia, the opinion reaffirmed the explicit intent of Congress to rely on federal preemption to establish the most effective and fair system to address injuries from vaccines.

Trial lawyers are constantly trying to undermine the preemption principle in federal legislation and regulation in an attempt to multiply their opportunities for lawsuits against manufacturers. Today’s opinion rebuffs their efforts.

For more background, see the Scotusblog entry on the case, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth.  Also, news coverage …

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): From a news release from Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth, “U.S. Supreme Court Decision In Bruesewitz V. Wyeth A Win For Public Health“:

“Vaccines are one of modern medicine’s greatest success stories,” said Pfizer Executive Vice President and General Counsel Amy Schulman. “Their nearly universal administration to children is responsible for the elimination of polio and smallpox in the United States, and the near-elimination and containment of other childhood diseases. The Vaccine Act that Congress enacted nearly 25 years ago appropriately places the responsibility for determining the optimal design of life-saving childhood vaccines in the hands of expert federal agencies, not a patchwork of state tort systems. We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Third Circuit.”

The opinion of the Court, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, stated that “[The Vaccine Act] reflects a sensible choice to leave complex epidemiological judgments about vaccine design to the FDA and the National Vaccine Program rather than juries.”