Monday, November 11, 2013

Pafford v. Secretary of Health and Human Services case brief

Pafford v. Secretary of Health and Human Services case brief summary
451 F.3d 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (en banc)

Acting as the parents and friends of their child, petitioner parents filed a suit against respondent, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seeking to recover under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 300aa-1 to 34. They appealed after the United States Court of Federal Claims sustained a special master's decision denying their claim and thereafter denied their reconsideration motion.


The parents alleged that their child developed Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) as a result of receiving DTaP, OPV, and MMR vaccinations. The evidence showed that the child developed a faint maculopapular rash approximately 17 days after receiving the vaccinations, that she tested positive, and was treated for, a bacterial infection, and that she was thereafter diagnosed with JRA. The special master determined that while the vaccines could cause JRA, the parents failed to sufficiently demonstrate a "but for" causal link between the vaccinations and the child's JRA as required under 42 U.S.C.S. § 300aa-13(a)(1).


  • The court held that the special master applied the correct legal standard when he required the parents to provide a reputable medical theory causally connecting the vaccinations and the injury and to prove that the vaccines actually caused the JRA. 
  • The special master did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in holding that the parents failed to establish "but for" causation, especially given that they failed to present any evidence establishing a defined time period, during which it was reasonable to expect that the JRA would manifest itself following the vaccinations.


The court affirmed the federal claims court's judgment. It ordered that each party would bear its own costs.

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