BRUESEWITZ v. WYETH INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
09-152
Petitioner 
Russell Bruesewitz, et al.
Respondent 
Wyeth, Inc., fka Wyeth Laboratories, et al.
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioners)
(for the respondents)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondents)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Two hours after Hannah Bruesewitz received her six-month diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine in 1992, she started developing seizures and was hospitalized for weeks. Hannah has continued to suffer from residual seizure disorder that requires her to receive constant care, according to her parents. When their daughter was three-years-old, Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz filed a petition seeking compensation for her injuries. One month prior to the petition, new regulations eliminated Hannah's seizure disorder from the list of compensable injuries. The family's petition was denied. Three years later, in 1998, the drug company Wyeth withdrew the type of vaccine used in Hannah's inoculation from the market.

The Bruesewitzes filed a lawsuit against Wyeth in state court in Pennsylvania. They claimed the drug company failed to develop a safer vaccine and should be held accountable for preventable injuries caused by the vaccine's defective design. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act protected Wyeth from lawsuits over vaccine injury claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit affirmed.

Question 

Can a federal law shield vaccine manufacturers from certain product liability lawsuits in state court that seek damages for serious health problems suffered by children?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Wyeth, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986

Yes. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. The majority reasoned that Congress had set up a special vaccine court as a way to provide compensation to injured children without driving drug manufacturers from the vaccine market. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a concurring opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Elena Kagan took no part in consideration of the case.

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BRUESEWITZ v. WYETH INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 05 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_152>.
BRUESEWITZ v. WYETH INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_152 (last visited April 5, 2014).
"BRUESEWITZ v. WYETH INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 5, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_152.