Category Archives: Tort Liability

The Facts about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

“In this post I explain how one goes about proving a case in the  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), and how that differs from proving a case in the civil courts, focusing on what it means to have a no-fault program and proving causation. I will use a case that started with the tragic death of a young child after a vaccine to illustrate the complexity and operation of the program, and also to address the idea of federal preemption, and how it limits the ability of those claiming vaccine injuries to use state courts for their claims. ”

Informed Consent and School Immunization Requirements

“Several people have asked me whether having school mandates is in tension with the idea of informed consent. The answer is no. While school mandates have some effect on parental autonomy, the doctrine of informed consent should not be conflated with autonomy.

For a somewhat different reason, imposing sanctions on those who do not vaccinate is also not a violation of informed consent.”

Article: Tools for dealing with Childhood Vaccination Crisis

Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Lois A. Weithorn

University of California Hastings College of the Law

March 4, 2015

Buffalo Law Review, Vol.63, August 2015, Forthcoming
UC Hastings Research Paper No. 134 


In spite of vaccines’ impressive record of safety and effectiveness, some families have failed to immunize their children, denying those children protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. In the last years, rates of nonvaccination, as well as rates of partial adherence to vaccination schedules, have been increasing. Predictably, this has led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. This article examines potential legal responses to this crisis. It sets out the legal framework governing childhood vaccination policies, highlighting the strength of governmental authority when the state’s police power to protect the public health and its parens patriae authority to protect the health of children and other vulnerable members of society converge, as they do in this context. After describing the phenomenon of nonvaccination, the reasons leading to parental refusals and the effects of those refusals, the article provides a menu of legal tools that can be used to improve vaccination rates.

Italian Court overturns decision that compensates for autism

In June 2012, a labor court in Rimini, Italy granted compensation to the family of a child named Valentino Bocca. The family alleged that the MMR vaccine Valentino received as part of his childhood immunizations caused his autism, and the court compensated them on that theory. The lower court’s decision was never on very firm grounds: it depended in part on testimony of an expert decision who relied, in turn, on Andrew Wakefield’s debunked studyBut it was used by anti-vaccine activists as part of their claims.

On February 13, 2015,  a Court of Appeals in Bologna overturned the decision–a decision that apparently lead to a decline in MMR immunization rates in Romagna, an historical district of Italy.


The Court of Appeal accepted the appeal filed by the Ministry of Health (ministero della Sanità). The expert appointed by the court of appeal highlighted that there is no scientific evidence supporting a link between vaccines and autism. The expert highlighted that the lower court expert was wrong to rely on the study by Andrew Wakefield, a study debunked and rejected by the scientific community.

The expert also highlighted that while there is some temporal link between Valentino’s MMR vaccine and autism, in the sense that the diagnosis of autism followed the vaccine, the temporal connection was not strong and does not itself support a causal connection.

The expert, Dr. Lodi, stated that “In the medical history of the child there is not an objective temporal correlation between the gradual emergence of autistic disorders and the MMR vaccine, there is only the fact that the two events occur one before the other, but as shown, this is not sufficient to relate the two events “.

The Bocca’s lawyer, Luca Ventaloro, claimed that he will appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione), the highest court in Italy.”

Do vaccine mandates or liability violate informed consent?

“Several people have asked me whether having school mandates is in tension with the idea of informed consent. The answer is no. While school mandates have some effect on parental autonomy, the doctrine of informed consent should not be conflated with autonomy.

For a somewhat different reason, imposing sanctions on those who do not vaccinate is also not a violation of informed consent.”



Italian Decision on Autism and Vaccines: Rimini Court decision

“On the 23 of September, 2014 a judge in the Labor Court of Milan awarded compensation (pdf, translated from Italian) to a child on the theory that the hexavalent vaccine manufactured by GSK – which protects children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, invasive disease Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B – caused the child’s autism. The decision was based on an expert’s opinion that made several extremely problematic arguments, arguments that go against the scientific evidence. It has been criticized by the Italian scientific community (translated summary, pdf), and is, apparently, being appealed.

This post explains the reasoning of the decision, and why it is fundamentally flawed.”

Tort liability for failure to vaccinate:

These two blog posts and article makes the argument that if one family’s failure to vaccinate harms another, the non-vaccinating family should be liable in torts for the damages.


Tort liability for failure to vaccinate:; see also:

Full article:


Law and Vaccines: A Manual

This is the manual about law and vaccines prepared in collaboration between myself, Amanda Naprawa and Voices for Vaccines. It covers a range of issues.


Legal Topics: 

Vaccines: Regulating the Product

Protecting the Public Health: State and Federal Law

Disease Prevention: The CDC’s Role

Immunization Schedules

School Immunization Requirements

Religious Exemptions

Vaccines: Individual Choice and Community Welfare

Community vs. Individual: Achieving a Balance of Rights

Religion, Employment, and Rights

Parental Rights and the Child’s Right to Health

Informed Consent

Informed Refusal: The Risks of Not Vaccinating

Increasing Immunization Rates: The Role of the Law 


Government-Funded Incentives and Subsidies

Imposing Costs: Civil Lawsuits.

Imposing Costs: No-Fault Options

Limiting Unvaccinated Individuals’ Access

Vaccine Refusal and Criminal Law

Forced Vaccination

Other Issues: 

Vaccine Injuries: Compensating the Rare Adverse Event.

NVICP vs. the Courts

Are Vaccines “Unavoidably Unsafe?”

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program v. the Courts

On the background of attempts by anti-vaccine activists to do away with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, our no-fault program for compensating vaccine injuries, I explain why the program is better for petitioners than the regular courts.





Rights of the Unvaccinated Child, 2:

The second post in a series published with Shot of Prevention examining the tension between a child’s right to health and parental rights, and what can be done to protect children. This post looks at whether children harmed by a preventable disease because the parent did not vaccinate them can sue the parent.