Insufficient Expert Report on Whether Baby’s Guillain-Barre Syndrome Resulted from Vaccination Did Not Warrant Dismissal with Prejudice

Dismissal with prejudice was too severe a sanction against parents seeking compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act for their child’s Guillain-Barre Syndrome based on the parents’ failure to provide the special master with additional requested expert reports on causation to supplement their claim. The Federal Circuit court found it was reasonable for the special master to suggest that the parents supplement the expert report, both to provide better support for their claim and to allow the respondent and the special master to prepare for the hearing. However, having given the parents the option to supplement the report or face a summary judgment motion or a dismissal on the merits based on the record as it stood, the special master should not have dismissed the petition for noncompliance with the prior orders when the parents elected to stand on the expert's original report and the expert's supplemental letter.


Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, when the question is whether the petitioners' evidence is sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion by the respondent, generally, it is not appropriate for a special master to dismiss the petition as a sanction for the petitioners' failure to comply with a directive to produce additional evidence in support of their claim.


The court noted that even though a finding of causation must be supported by a sound and reliable medical or scientific explanation, causation can be found under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act without detailed medical and scientific exposition on the biological mechanisms. It is not necessary for a petitioner to point to conclusive evidence in the medical literature linking a vaccine to the petitioner's injury, as long as the petitioner can show by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a causal relationship between the vaccine and the injury, whatever the details of the mechanism may be.


In this case, there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the one-day variance in the time of onset of the daughter's symptoms was inconsistent with a vaccine related injury, precluding summary judgment. Therefore, the case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. See: Simanski v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 2012 WL 695791 (Fed.Cir.  Mar 06, 2012) (not designated for publication).