Vaccine Case Before Justices Turns On the Language Of A Law
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struggled to divine the balance Congress had meant to strike in a 1986 law that established a system to compensate people injured by vaccines while barring some, but not all, lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
David C. Frederick, a lawyer for a couple who said their daughter had been badly hurt by a vaccine, said their lawsuit should be allowed to go forward. “We are talking about trying to eliminate some of the most horrifying and horrible incidents of injury from vaccines that we compel children to take,” he said.
Kathleen M. Sullivan, a lawyer for the defendant, said that approach would expose the industry to crushing liability that could drive companies from the marketplace and imperil the nation’s vaccine supply.
Ms. Sullivan, who represents Wyeth, now a part of Pfizer, added that the ruling in the case, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, No. 09-152, could affect thousands of unrelated cases concerning autism in the vaccine court.
Ms. Sullivan, the Wyeth lawyer, said Congress had meant to allow only lawsuits arising from manufacturing flaws and inadequate warnings. Suits over asserted design defects — those arising from the nature of the vaccine itself as compared with other, potentially safer ones — were meant to be barred, she said.