The recent decision handed down on August 17, 2009 by the U. S. Court of Federal Claims in the case of Rotoli, Myers, Torbett, Porter, and Hager v. the Secretary of Health and Human Services has me wondering if the days of the so-called "Vaccine Court" are numbered. (An abridged discussion of this case can be found on the web-site of Conway, Homer, and Chin-Caplan, HERE.)
Coming so quickly after the U. S. Court of Appeals decision in Andreu v. Sec. of Health and Human Services (see my previous article Vaccine Court: Don't Be a Putz) it seems as if serious questions are being raised about the conduct of the Vaccine Court. In Andreu, the appeals court found that the Vaccine Court failed to properly apply all three parts of the three-pronged Althen test in the case of a child who developed seizures after a DPT vaccination. In what can only be regarded as a slap in the face to the Vaccine Court, the appeals court found the petitioners had made their case and the only question to be answered by the Vaccine Court was the amount of damages. The Rotoli court specifically cited the Andreu decision in various parts of its decision as an example of serious errors by the Vaccine Court. (Click HERE to read Rotoli.)
In the three public test cases linking vaccines to autism, Cedillo, Hazlehurst, and Snyder, the Special Masters not only denied a link, but took extraordinary efforts to disparage the entire community of parents and medical professionals who assert the credibility of such a link. This is beyond the pale of what a court is supposed to do and I had wondered if this was simply limited to those who were asserting a vaccine connection to autism.
After reading the sixty-six page Rotoli decision, though, I’m starting to believe the Special Masters are interested in disputing a connection between vaccines and any health problems. The federal courts now appear to be pushing back against this effort. I think this apparent federal distrust of the decisions of the Vaccine Court will have significant effects when the three public vaccine-autism cases already decided make their way into the traditional legal system.