The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that claimants who file time-barred petitions for compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, a no-fault compensation system for injuries allegedly caused by vaccines, may recover attorney’s fees if their petitions were “brought in good faith and there was a reasonable basis for the claim for which the petition was brought.” Sebelius v. Cloer, No. 12-236 (U.S., decided May 20, 2013). Writing for the court—unanimous as to the outcome—Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the Act did not distinguish between timely and untimely petitions in addressing a court’s discretion to award attorney’s fees and costs. So ruling, the court affirmed the en banc Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
The timeliness of the claimant’s petition was addressed by several courts. She claimed that a Hepatitis-B vaccine in 1997 caused symptoms that were ultimately diagnosed in 2003 as multiple sclerosis. She filed her claim in 2005, one year after learning about an alleged link between the disease and the vaccine. The Federal Circuit panel determination that her claim was timely is discussed in the May 13, 2010, issue of this Report. And the en banc Federal Circuit ruling dismissing her claim as untimely, while accepting the doctrine of equitable tolling, is addressed in the August 25, 2011, issue.