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Vaccine Act claim survives death from other causes

A claim for compensation under the Vaccine Act survived the death of the injured party from a cause unrelated to his receiving a vaccine, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled in reversing a dismissal.

Within 20 days of receiving the flu vaccine in 2008, the Manny Figueroa was hospitalized and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a debilitating and sometimes fatal nervous system disorder. He died of pancreatic cancer before he could file a claim for compensation under the Act.

His widow, as personal representative of Figuroa’s estate, subsequently filed a Vaccine Act claim. A special master dismissed Stephanie Vino Figueroa’s claim, reasoning that she lacked standing because her husband did not die from a vaccine-related condition.

But the Washington, D.C.-based appeals court held that the vaccine-related injury claims of an individual who dies from other causes survive death, and that the decedent’s personal representative may pursue an action under the Act to recover on those claims.

In reaching that conclusion on May 1, the court rejected the government’s argument that Mrs. Figueroa lacked standing because she was not among the individuals listed under §300aa-11(b)(1)(A) of the Act who are permitted to file claims for compensation.

The court explained that “vaccine-related injury claims survive death in most situations, including (1) when the petition is filed before death by an injured individual who subsequently dies of non-vaccine-related causes, (2) when the petition is filed before death by an injured individual who subsequently dies of vaccine-related causes, and (3) when the petition is filed after death by the estate of an injured individual who dies of vaccine-related causes. If an injury claim survives in all these circumstances, it must survive here as well.”

The case is Figueroa v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, No. 2012-5064, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Lawyers USA is a sister publication of The Daily Record.