Supreme Court Decides Bruesewitz v. Wyeth 6-2, Foreclosing Civil Lawsuits for Vaccine Design Defect


February 22, 2011
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Court Protects Vaccine Manufacturers, Not Injured Children

Supreme Court Decides Bruesewitz v. Wyeth 6-2, Foreclosing Civil Lawsuits for Vaccine Design Defect

New York, NY – The Coalition for Vaccine Safety (CVS) condemns the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth to preempt all vaccine design defect lawsuits in state and federal civil court.  Quoting Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, the majority “imposes its own bare policy preference over the considered judgment of Congress.”  In the dissent, which Justice Ginsburg joined, Justice Sotomayor argues that the majority misreads the text, misconstrues the Act’s legislative history, and “disturbs the careful balance Congress struck between compensating vaccine-injured children and stabilizing the childhood vaccine market.”

The actual circumstances in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth illustrate why the Supreme Court’s decision is misguided.  Hannah Bruesewitz, hours after a diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, developed catastrophic brain injury and a lifelong seizure disorder.  The only plausible explanation for the harm to Hannah was her vaccine.  Indeed, many other children were injured by the same vaccine lot, yet the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, the only court where Hannah could bring her claim, denied compensation after years of litigation.  Now the Supreme Court tells Hannah and her family that there is no courtroom in the country in which she can obtain justice and compensation for the years of care ahead that she needs.

The majority’s true intent appears to be to prevent several thousand tort cases claiming a link between vaccines and autism from reaching civil court to assert that a dangerous vaccine design, using mercury as a preservative, was defective.  Sotomayor writes that this concern, to shield manufacturers from litigation, “appears to underlie the majority and concurring opinions in this case.”

According to vaccine safety advocate Louise Kuo Habakus, “The Court is telling parents that they’re on their own.  Parents know that 4 out of 5 cases of vaccine injury do not get compensation in the misnamed Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  The Supreme Court has slammed the courthouse doors shut.”  Because the federal government recommends 70 doses of 16 “unavoidably unsafe” vaccines, and states compel 30-45 doses for school attendance, this issue affects all children.

CVS calls for Congressional hearings and action to amend the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to reinstate the right to sue for vaccine design defect in civil court.

For more information on Bruesewitz v. Wyeth and vaccine safety, visit

Organizations supporting the Coalition for Vaccine Safety:

Age of Autism

Autism One

Autism Action Network

Center for Personal Rights

The Coalition for Safe Minds

Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy

Generation Rescue

National Autism Association

National Autism Association New York Metro Chapter

Talk About Curing Autism

Unlocking Autism