The Supreme Cout held in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, 562 U.S. 223 (2011), that the section of the Vaccine Act of 1986 preempts all vaccine design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers. The case was decided on February 22, 2011. The Court, in a 6-2 opinion by Justice Scalia, held that the “plaintiffs design defect claims [were] expressly preempted by the Vaccine Act.” Thus, the court affirmed laws that vaccine manufacturers are not liable for vaccine-induced injury or death if they are “accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”
This was a very disappointing decision. They ruled that the Act’s structural quid pro quo also leads to the same conclusion. The vaccine manufacturers fund an informal, efficient compensation program for vaccine injuries in exchange for avoiding costly tort litigation and the occasional disproportionate jury verdict. Taxing their product to fund the compensation program, while leaving their liability for design defect virtually unaltered, would hardly coax them back into the market.