Monday, October 18, 2010
If the U.S. Supreme Court sides
with the petitioners in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the ruling could
undermine the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and drag the field
back decades to a time when litigation stifled vaccine R&D. Central to the
case is an ambiguous clause in the Act that prevents patients from taking
vaccine manufacturers to state civil courts for injuries allegedly caused by a
vaccine's defective design.
Because the clause isn't
crystal clear, the justices likely will need to consider documents from the
time of the Vaccine Act's enactment to determine whether Congress intended the
law to give vaccine manufacturers immunity to all design-defect claims, or only
some of them. Unfortunately, the congressional record is also murky.