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VACCINE LITIGATION AND THE NATIONAL VACCINE INJURY COMPENSATION PROGRAM Most persons who receive vaccinations have no problems or adverse reactions. Vaccinations are a vital and important part of the health care system, and have been instrumental in eradicating many diseases. In some cases, even though rare, a vaccine can cause a serious adverse reaction and health issue. For those who believe they, or their children, have been injured by the administration of a childhood vaccination, there is an alternative to costly and time consuming product liability litigation against the vaccine manufacturer or a negligence claim against the medical provider who administered the vaccination. In the 1980’s, there was an influx of lawsuits against vaccine companies and medical care providers arising out of negative reactions to vaccinations. This frightened vaccine manufacturers and threatened a resurgence of preventable diseases due to companies not producing vaccines and a commensurate decrease in vaccination rates. Congress therefore enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. The Act established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (hereinafter “VICP”), an alternative to a product liability action or a negligence claim against a medical provider. The VICP provides a streamlined system for compensation in those rare situations where a person is injured by a vaccine, a system which is different, quicker, and less adversarial than the usual course of a civil tort claim in state or federal court. The VICP established a government trust fund to compensate injured persons, financed by an excise tax on vaccines. Here is the process. A person (which can be an adult, despite the name of the act) who believes they have suffered a vaccine injury files a petition, with supporting medical records and documentation, against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., seeking compensation from the trust fund. Attorneys from the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of justice, in conjunction with medical professionals with HHS, review the petition. HHS makes a preliminary recommendation regarding whether the petition satisfies the medical criteria for compensation. Attorneys from the Department of justice review the medical findings and prepare a report, which is submitted not to a judge, but to a Special Master at the Court. The Special Master reviews the report and holds a hearing wherein evidence is presented by both sides. There is no jury. A decision is then rendered as to whether the petitioner is entitled to compensation, and in what amount. If compensation is awarded, the Special Master directs HHS to pay the petitioner. Also, a settlement can be reached between the petitioner and the government without the necessity of a hearing at any time after the filing of a petition. The petitioner is free to accept the Special Master’s award and end the case at that point. The Petitioner may also appeal the denial of compensation or the amount of the award. Furthermore, if the decision of the Special Master is rejected by the petitioner, a tort claim may then be filed in civil court against the vaccine manufacturer and/or the medical provider who administered the vaccination. Again, that is a long, expensive, and difficult process, and such claims have greatly decreased since the institution of VICP. Vaccines covered by the Act include diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis, chickenpox (varicella), flu, and human papillomavirus.

June 10th, 2019

The Law of Snow and Ice Removal in Massachusetts

February 25th, 2019

Now that the snow and ice season is upon us in New England, a primer on the law of snow and ice removal is warranted. The general rule of premises liability in Massachusetts is that a property owner owes a duty to all lawful visitors to use reasonable care to maintain its property in a … Continue reading “The Law of Snow and Ice Removal in Massachusetts”

Utility Liability for Natural Gas Explosions

October 22nd, 2018

In Massachusetts this past September it was over-pressurization of a gas main that caused the blast which killed one person, injured 25, and destroyed many homes and businesses in Lawrence, Andover, North Andover and other Merrimack Valley communities.   This dangerous situation has happened too many times before.  In San Bruno, California in 2014 a … Continue reading “Utility Liability for Natural Gas Explosions”

Know Your Wage Rights

August 29th, 2018

KNOW YOUR WAGE RIGHTS WAGE AND HOUR LAWS IN MASSACHUSETTS Employers and workers must both be aware of the wage and hour laws governing the payment of employees.  Employers must understand them so they don’t commit one of the many wage and hour violations and possibly subject themselves to severe penalties, which may include triple … Continue reading “Know Your Wage Rights”

Consumer Protection in Massachusetts – Chapter 93A

April 10th, 2018

  Massachusetts has an important statute which protects consumers and businesses from unfair and deceptive acts or practices.  It is codified in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A, known simply in the Massachusetts legal world as 93A.  Section 2 of Chapter 93A states as follows: “Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices … Continue reading “Consumer Protection in Massachusetts – Chapter 93A”

OPIOID ADDICTION AND WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS/OPIOID LAWSUITS AGAINST THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY AND MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

March 5th, 2018

Can claims be brought for personal injuries or wrongful death as a result of opioid addiction? Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — they now claim more lives annually than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus did at its peak. The opioid crisis is ravaging Massachusetts and other … Continue reading “OPIOID ADDICTION AND WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS/OPIOID LAWSUITS AGAINST THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY AND MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS”

Time Limitations

February 12th, 2018

TIME LIMITATIONS TO BRING PERSONAL INJURY AND OTHER CLAIMS All injured persons, as well as attorneys involved in civil litigation and personal injury, whether representing plaintiffs or defendants, must always be concerned with time limitations for instituting a personal injury claim, an employment claim, property damage claim, or any claim for that matter. It is … Continue reading “Time Limitations”

Vicarious Liability Settlement

June 5th, 2017

Here is a recent interesting case wherein I represented the estate of a woman who was killed by an intoxicated driver. The vehicle operated by the drunk driver was owned by and registered in the name of an automobile dealership. I won the case on appeal and recently settled the matter after the Superior Court’s … Continue reading “Vicarious Liability Settlement”