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Medical Malpractice and Vaccines

VaccineMuch ink has been spilled about vaccines in recent years: how effective they are, how dangerous they may be, and whether or not they should be mandatory for all (except for those who are immunocompromised). Regardless of the alleged controversy over vaccine efficacy, or belief in the long-discredited link between vaccines and autism diagnoses, any medical tool can be mishandled, and if it has happened to you, you may be eligible for compensation.

The Immunocompromised and The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule

One of the most discussed ways that vaccines can factor into medical malpractice is in the case of the immunocompromised. A person is deemed to be immunocompromised if their immune system fails to meet a certain threshold of function. It can be induced with immunosuppressive drugs, but it may also occur due to immunodeficiency disorder. Vaccines trigger an immune response when they work, so this may be problematic.

Sometimes, a person may be injured far worse than one would normally, due to some kind of pre-existing condition. This is referred to at common law as the “eggshell plaintiff rule.” California jury instructions explicitly provide that if someone has a pre-existing condition, they are not entitled to damages for that condition - however, if that condition is made worse, that may be compensable. The eggshell plaintiff rule has affected California awards for patients with several conditions which can lead to an immunocompromised state, such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), cancers of the immune system and AIDS. If a patient is vaccinated despite immunodeficiency, through a chart mix-up or simple doctor error, it can severely impact their physical condition.

Jurisdiction Over Vaccine Reactions

One of the most misunderstood aspects of vaccine liability is the existence of the U.S. Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, commonly referred to as the Vaccine Court. Those who believe vaccines to be dangerous point to the Court’s existence as proof that vaccines can injure. They are correct - but not in the colloquial way they imagine.

Vaccines do cause injury in extremely rare instances - if one looks at the numbers, approximately 92 million children have been born in the U.S. since the court’s inception in 1988, with approximately 87 million having been vaccinated. As of 2013, 14,548 petitions have been presented to the court, only a fraction of which (3,256) were compensated. Less than one-tenth of one percent (0.003 percent) of vaccinations given has thus ended in a compensable injury. 

These statistics are important to understand because the vaccine court is the only place that a suit may be brought to seek compensation for a genuine vaccine injury. The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that lawsuits against vaccine makers may not proceed in state or federal courts. Only practitioner error (for example, a doctor administering the wrong dose of a vaccine) would be pursuable under standard medical malpractice law in California.

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney

If your family has been affected by a genuine vaccine injury, and it is something for which a civil action can be brought in California, a good medical malpractice attorney can be worth their proverbial weight in gold. The dedicated San Jose medical malpractice lawyers at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have years of experience in detecting and analyzing healthcare providers’ errors, and will do our best to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact our offices today to discuss your case. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.