Federal Law Bars Suit After Baby’s Death

     (CN) – Federal law bars a Nevada couple’s complaint against Merk & Company for the death of their baby from vaccination side effects, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
     Erin and Shawn Holmes’ one-year-old died from encephalopathies six months after receiving a common vaccination against Measles, Mumps and Rubella. A government program created in the 1980s paid the couple $250,000 in compensation, but the Holmeses also sued Merck & Company for wrongful death, alleging that the vaccine had been defective and that the drug giant had failed to properly warn them of the potential side effects.
     After the couple’s state-law claims were moved to federal court, Presiding U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval ruled for Merk in Las Vegas, finding that Section 22 of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act prohibited some of the plaintiffs’ claims. Congress passed the law, which limits liability in vaccine-related deaths, in 1986 in response to a rising number of such lawsuits.
     On appeal in the 9th Circuit, the plaintiffs challenged the lower court’s ruling on their design defect and failure to warn claims, claiming that Section 22 did not apply to their state claims because they were already ineligible under a different section of the act.
     A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court affirmed unanimously from San Francisco.
     “We disagree with plaintiffs’ cramped interpretation of the Vaccine Act,” wrote Judge Sidney Thomas for the panel. “Given the structure and broad purpose of the Act as a whole, it is most reasonable to apply Section 22 to all design defect and failure to warn claims arising out of a vaccine-related injury or death, not just those that could have first been brought in the Vaccine Court.
     Thomas added that Merk “produced evidence that it had complied with all regulatory requirements related to [the vaccine],” but the plaintiffs “failed to submit evidence sufficient to show that the vaccine had not been properly prepared or that it had not been accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”

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