While covering the story about the Florida woman who alleges that her daughter became paralyzed from the flu vaccine, Nancy Grace is told on-air that victims of vaccine injuries cannot sue vaccine manufacturers. Nancy Grace is a controversial, nationally known journalist and attorney from Headline News. During the course of the program, Health Choice Communications Director Rebecca Estepp stated that instead of a lawsuit, someone who believes their child is vaccine-injured must petition the government for compensation.
“It was established as part of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, after a rash of lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce vaccination rates,” according to information found on the CDC’s website about VICP.
This program was established in 1988, according to the United States Court of Federal Claims, and exists to establish a no-fault system of compensation.
“The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (‘Vaccine Program’) comprises Part 2 of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (‘Vaccine Act’). See Pub. L. No. 99-660, 100 Stat. 3755 (1986) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1 to -34). The Vaccine Act became effective October 1, 1988. It establishes the Vaccine Program as a no-fault compensation program whereby petitions for monetary compensation may be brought by or on behalf of persons allegedly suffering injury or death as a result of the administration of certain compulsory childhood vaccines.”
Nancy Grace was visibly surprised when she was told that the only recourse to a true vaccine injury is to file a claim with Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). According to The History of Vaccines, a web-based project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, once a claim is denied, then a civil suit is legally allowed to be brought up.
“The claim filer is reimbursed according to a formula, provided that all the medical records meet NCVIA standards and that review by the U.S. Department of Justice determines that all legal standards have been met. If a claim is denied, or if the claim is approved and the claimant rejects the compensation, only then may the claimant file a civil lawsuit.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, since the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) began paying out claims in 1989, 3,812 compensation awards have been granted. These vaccine injury awards total more than $2.8 billion and more than $118.6 million has been paid towards legal fees. The Department of Health and Human Services states that over 9,800 vaccine injury claims have been dismissed.
All total, there have been 14,439 claims of vaccine injury and 1,149 claims of death from vaccines, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Less than one-quarter of all claims made to the VICP are approved. Over three-quarters of all vaccine injury claims are denied.
“It was supposed to be a friendly, fast alternative program that didn’t require the protections plaintiffs would have in civil litigation,” Renee Gentry, president of the Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar Association, said. “It’s the complete opposite.”
“I’m so disappointed in it,” Michael Hugo, senior litigation counsel to Khorrami Boucher’s Boston office, told the National Law Journal, which states that with the current vaccine court, there are no punitive damages and compensation for pain and suffering or death from vaccines are capped at $250,000.
Hugo once fought alongside the vaccine manufacturers to help pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. He told the National Law Journal that now “it makes me sick to try to do these cases because I’ve seen how bad it has become.”
In order for the vaccine court to find reason for compensation, the evidence for vaccine injury must be legally sufficient to indicate that a vaccine “more likely than not caused (or significantly aggravated) the injury” or that the injury is listed on the Vaccine Injury Table and meets all the requirements for a vaccine injury, according to a pdf presented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Not everyone agrees with Hugo’s disappointment in the vaccine court system, though. Many believe that vaccine court works, and assert that vaccine injuries are rare.
“I always say to everyone the risk is infinitesimal,” Peter Meyers, who directs the Vaccine Injury Clinic at George Washington University Law School, said. “If you give a million of anything to anyone, someone will have an adverse reaction.”
Unfortunately for the mother on Nancy Grace’s show, according to The History of Vaccines project, seeking compensation for presumed vaccine injuries is an involved process and would have to be undertaken before a civil suit against a vaccine manufacturer could ever be pursued.