A Missouri appeals court has upheld an $8.5 million judgment for a St. Louis man who contracted Polio after receiving an oral vaccine as a child. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals’ Eastern District also ruled that the vaccine’s manufacturer owed about $2.8 million for prejudgment interest on top of the award because it refused to accept a pretrial settlement offer that was less than the amount awarded by a jury. In 1987, as a child, the Plaintiff contracted Polio shortly after receiving a second dose of the vaccine Orimune, which was made by American Cyanamid Co. The Plaintiff said he was frequently teased, struggled to fit in with other children and now has limited use of his left arm and right hand.
He sued American Cyanamid and the pediatrician who administered the vaccine. In 2005, a St. Louis jury cleared the doctor of liability, but ordered American Cyanamid to pay the Plaintiff $1.5 million for pain and suffering, $2 million for future lost earnings and $5 million for future pain and suffering. The company appealed, contending there was insufficient evidence that it was legally responsible for the Plaintiff’s injuries. In addition to asking for a new trial, the company also sought to have the judgment reduced or set aside.
As you may know, Polio is caused by three types of viruses. Oral vaccines for the three types were derived from strains that use living, but weakened virus. American Cyanamid grew larger volumes of the vaccine by passing it through the kidney cells of monkeys, which resulted in “production seeds.” Federal regulations required that the “seeds” be tested on monkeys to determine if they could cause illness. American Cyanamid was purchased in 1994 and is now part of New Jersey-based Wyeth. The vaccine given to the Plaintiff was discontinued in 2000. Wyeth is considering an appeal.
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