Dr. Mark Geier is a name which has come up frequently in the autism/vaccine discussion, and in alternative medical therapies (such as Lupron) of autism. Dr. Geier has been an expert witness for petitioners in the vaccine court for about two decades. He has been criticized by the court for almost as long . Dr. Geier has recently had his medical license suspended .
Mark Geier and his son David have worked for the Petitioners Steering Committee (the lawyers handling the plaintiffs’ cases in the Autism Omnibus). But their relationship seems a bit strained. They filed suit asking for $600,000 in payment . The Geiers have had previous requests for fees drastically reduced or denied, including one where they expected the Court to cover $20,000 as their costs (and hourly rate, including while sitting on planes) to attend conferences in Italy and France . The court called this “a complete abdication of billing judgment.”
In a recent court decision , Dr. Geier has been criticized again. Thoroughly. But this very strong statement from the special master makes it clear that Dr. Geier’s future as an expert witness or consultant will be very restricted:
I will not likely be inclined to compensate attorneys in any future opinions for consultant work performed by Mark Geier after the publication date of this opinion.
The decision focused on expenses the Petitioner’s Steering Committee (PSC) charged in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding for Mark Geier, his son David Geier and their colleagues. Much of these charges resulted from a study they published, Thimerosal exposure in infants and neurodevelopmental disorders: An assessment of computerized medical records in the Vaccine Safety Datalink . Epiwonk (a former professional epidemiologist for the CDC) discussed the paper in New Study on Thimerosal and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: I. Scientific Fraud or Just Playing with Data?
The study noted in the acknowledgements that the study was funded by the PSC:
This study received funding from the Autism Petitioners’ Steering Committee of the no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP).
The Geier/Young team billed the PSC, and the PSC billed the
The Geiers tried some fancy footwork to get the Young-Geier study paid for by our tax dollars. Including an apparent attempt to get the non-doctor David Geier compensated by charging work at their company, “medcon”, rather than naming David Geier as the recipient.
Bottom line—the PSC asked for $440k to compensate the people who worked on the Young-Geier study. They got $33k, and a strong statement that Geier will be unlikely to be compensated by the program in the future.
If you are curious about the value of the study itself, there is a whole section of the decision titled “The Young-Geier article itself did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation case.”
In their application, the PSC sought a total of $7,202,653 for interim fees and costs. with $1.35M for costs, primarily expert witness costs (note that the Geiers did not actually serve as witnesses, so they are part of the “costs”)
Out of $1,350,000 in costs one might ask how much of this was for the Young-Geier study?
As noted above, this Decision on Remand concerns the PSC’s claim for compensation for amounts paid, or to be paid, to four experts/consultants: Dr. Mark Geier, David Geier, Dr. Heather Young and Dr. Robert Hirsch. Conceptually, this claim can be broken into two parts. First, petitioners seek $447,004.02 to compensate all four of those individuals for work on an original medical article that was published in 2008. Second, petitioners seek $197,823.94 more for miscellaneous additional services provided by Mark Geier and David Geier between 2003 and 2008.
$447K. One third of the total. A large number of expert witnesses actually produced reports and testified, but the Geier team was to receive 1/3 of the total. If you take a high rate of $500/hour, this works out to 22 full time man weeks. For a study where they didn’t have to collect data, just analyze it. I find it difficult to believe this study took 22 weeks (or more, as the $500/hour is a very high estimate).
The Geiers were not slated to get the majority of the money. Heather Young , an associate professor at George Washington University, was to get the lion’s share. About a quarter of a million dollars:
Petitioners would receive $248,636.91 to compensate Dr. Young, $157,407.11 for the two Geiers, and $41,000 for Dr. Hirsch
Unless GWU pays their associate professors much more than is common, this represents well over one year’s pay for Prof. Young.
Thankfully HHS (respondent) argued against this request:
Respondent argues strenuously, in response, that it would be wholly unreasonable for the Program to provide compensation to these individuals for their efforts concerning the article.
Is it reasonable to charge for studies created for litigation? Are they of high value to the case?
I note that the Supreme Court has expressed the view that medical studies produced expressly for litigation purposes should be viewed with skepticism.
The views of these courts, then, reinforce the concern that if a lawyer involved in a Vaccine Act case chooses specific experts and pays them to carry out a study, the potential is great for bias in the study, toward the outcome that would assist the clients of the lawyer paying for the study. Thus, it is arguable that, as the respondent contends, it would be poor public policy, in general, for special masters to award public funds for such original studies.
Rather, I conclude that under all the specific circumstances of this case, it would not be reasonable for me to compensate the named individuals for the production of this particular article.
The PSC argued that the paper was not “litigation driven”. The SM didn’t accept the argument:
As to the former point, I am simply not persuaded by the suggestion that the article was not litigation-driven….The mere fact that the PSC lawyers contributed or promised monetary support for another article co-authored by the Geiers, concerning the topic of whether thimerosal-containing vaccines can cause autism, is itself strong evidence that the article was litigation-driven.
Further, the very fact that the petitioners are now seeking Vaccine Act funds for the cost of producing the article is a very strong indication that the article was litigation-driven.
If that wasn’t enough, the PSC argument backfired in another way:
If the article was produced “completely apart from [Dr. Geier’s] involvement in this [Vaccine Act] litigation,” and would have been produced even absent that litigation, that would seem to contradict the petitioners’ claim that paying the cost of producing the article was a necessary and reasonable cost of the Vaccine Act litigation.
How was the Young-Geier study used in the Omnibus? Was it persuasive? Answer: it wasn’t really used and it wasn’t persuasive.
The HHS/DOJ’s experts were critical of the Young-Geier study:
Perhaps the strongest factor leading to my result here is my conclusion that the Young-Geier article itself did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation presentation in this case. Two epidemiologic experts, both of them testifying for respondent, testified at the trial in this case concerning the merits of the Young-Geier article, and both testified that the article was deeply flawed.
Even the PSC’s own experts were not impressed by the Geiers in general:
And, very significantly, none of the petitioners’ five medical experts who testified at the trial offered any testimony in support of the validity of the Young-Geier article. It is especially striking that among petitioners’ experts was an expert who has excellent credentials in epidemiology, Dr. Sander Greenland. Dr. Greenland in fact testified negatively about the Geiers’ prior epidemiologic articles concerning the vaccine-autism controversy, describing those studies as“deficient in methodology.”
Prof. Greenland didn’t speak to the Young-Geier article directly, just their methods in other studies. But the special master points out that this appears to be a trick on the part of the PSC to avoid having to defend the Young-Geier study on cross examination:
Yet they [the PSC] put Dr. Greenland on the witness stand in this King case on May 12, 2008 (Tr. 69-135), did not ask him about the article, and did not reveal the existence of the article to the special masters and respondent until May 16 (see fn. 6 above), thus ensuring that no one could ask Dr. Greenland about the Young-Geier article. From these circumstances, the most reasonable inference is that petitioners’ counsel deliberately intended to avoid any questioning of Dr. Greenland, their epidemiologic expert, about the Young-Geier article.
The special master concludes that the study did not add any value to the PSC’s case and “no rational hypothetical paying client” would have agreed to pay for the production of such a “flawed study”:
In short, the Young-Geier study itself was severely criticized by respondent’s experts, who articulated persuasive reasons for that criticism. In my own analysis, the Young-Geier study also appears flawed. And the other special masters who reviewed that article reached the same conclusion. Clearly, no rational “hypothetical paying client” of the PSC would have agreed to pay for the production of such a flawed study. Thus, the fact that the Young-Geier article did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation presentation in this case is a very strong reason why I should decline to compensate the PSC for the cost of producing the article.
The Special Master notes that given the long history of the Geiers in the vaccine program, it would be unreasonable to expect the program to pay for the cost of the study:
A review of prior legal opinions discussing the Geiers casts strong doubt on the reasonableness of compensating the cost of an article co-authored by them.
The Special Master then goes into detail of those decisions , with an entire section of the decision dedicated to “Vaccine Act opinions concerning the general credibility of Dr. Geier as an expert witness” including subsections “Criticisms of Dr. Geier for offering testimony outside his area of medical specialty” and “Opinions questioning Dr. Geier’s honesty, candor, or veracity” and “Opinions declining compensation or substantially reducing compensation for Dr. Geier’s services”
If you get the time, read through those. They are highly critical. A condensed version of 20 years of highly critical comments about the actions of the Geiers in the vaccine program (mostly Mark Geier):
Criticism of the Geiers is not limited to their activities in the Vaccine Court. In “Judicial opinions outside of the Vaccine Act” they quote decisions stating “federal appellate court concluded that Dr. Geier gave erroneous testimony” and “state court found Dr. Geier’s testimony to be “unsubstantiated” and unpersuasive” and “federal court was “unimpressed with the qualifications, veracity, and bonafides” and, lastly, “federal judge stated that he was “unconvinced” that Dr. Geier was qualified to offer testimony concerning certain vaccine safety issues.”
The Special Master went into detail about previous flawed studies by the Geiers on vaccines and autism. He also notes that the assertion that Dr. Geier is qualified as an epidemiologist is not supported:
Thus, Dr. Geier does not appear to have had any formal academic training or degrees or medical faculty experience in epidemiology, and his medical experience has been chiefly in genetics rather than epidemiology. Thus, it is unclear why he was named a “Fellow” of the American College of Epidemiology, and it is doubtful whether he should be considered an expert in epidemiology. I conclude that the petitioners have failed to shoulder their burden of demonstrating that Dr. Geier should be considered an expert in epidemiology.
Further, a number of judges and special masters have also examined Dr. Geier’s credentials, and have specifically concluded that Dr. Geier should not be considered an expert in epidemiology.
He awards fees, as a consultant not expert, for Mark Geier’s other efforts on the Omnibus:
Accordingly, I awarded $33,130.35 (147.246 hours times $225 per hour) for the services of Dr. Geier.
No mention of payment for David Geier or Heather Young.
The Special Master makes it clear that even this amount was grudgingly awarded. Given that in the past it was reasonable to hire Mark Geier as a consultant:
I note that it is not an easy judgment whether to award any funds for the services of Dr. Mark Geier in this case. On balance, I conclude that, in light of the cases awarding funds to Dr. Geier as a consultant (see p. 33 above), it was not unreasonable in this instance (several years ago) for the PSC to employ Dr. Geier for consultant services.
But, after 20 years, the vaccine program may have had enough of Mark Geier:
If the court won’t pay his fees, the career of Mark Geier as an expert for vaccine injury cases is over. His son David is not likely to be taking his place, as he has not been considered even viable as a consultant by the special masters. As noted above, Mark Geier’s license to practice medicine has been suspended (in multiple states). David Geier was charged with practicing medicine without a license . One has to wonder if or how the Geiers will re-emerge on the autism/vaccine scene.