In a recent decision, the Georgia Supreme Court allowed an Atlanta couple’s lawsuit against a vaccine manufacturer to go forward. The Supreme Court upheld a first-of-a-kind ruling by an appellate court in a case that had drawn fierce opposition from the vaccine industry. The court’s unanimous decision concluded that a 1986 federal law that has been used to block other lawsuits against vaccine companies does not bar the lawsuit from Marcelo and Carolyn Ferrari from going to trial.
The court upheld a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which became the first appellate court in the nation to hold that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act does not preempt state law. The Ferrari family asked the Georgia Supreme Court to rule that vaccine maker American Home Products Corp., now known as Wyeth, can be held liable for damages in a civil case involving their son, Stefan. The family contends that Thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative, caused their son’s disability. According to his parents, the child was a talkative toddler before he got a round of booster shots when he was 18 months old. The boy, now ten, hasn’t spoken since. The case has drawn protests from the vaccine industry as well as powerful right-wing lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Pacific Legal Foundation. Their agenda is to prohibit lawsuits and has nothing to do with patient safety.
The Georgia Court’s ruling, written by Justice George Carley, said the federal law “clearly does not preempt all design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers.” Instead, the court held that vaccine manufacturers must prove on a case-by-case basis that the side effect of the particular vaccine was unavoidable in order to be immune from defective design claims. Families of children with autism have contended that Thimerosal is linked to autism. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have rejected any such link, it appears there may well be a scientific basis for a contrary view. Thimerosal has been removed in recent years from standard childhood vaccines, except flu vaccines that are not packaged in single doses. The CDC says single-dose flu shots currently are available only in limited quantities. It will be interesting to see if this ruling will stand and whether it will affect other cases.
Source: Associated Press
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