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Law scholars receive American Bar Association grant

April 22, 2008

Three scholars at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law have received a national grant to support their study of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

The grant from the Litigation Research Fund of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation was awarded to professors Michael Saks and Betsy Grey, and to Roselle Wissler, research director of the college’s Lodestar Dispute Resolution Program.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is funded through a small excise tax added to every dose of vaccine, is a mandatory alternative to conventional litigation for people seeking compensation for injuries they believe resulted from vaccines. It was designed to address the interests of all stakeholders, in that vaccine manufacturers are largely insulated from liability, and claimants are relieved of proof of fault – and, in some cases, proof of causation.

Generally, the program is thought to have achieved its goals of maintaining the vaccine supply and stabilizing costs, Wissler says, but not its goal of providing efficient and effective access to a forum for deciding on compensation for victims.

Saks, Grey and Wissler want to better understand the functioning of the program, and they want to gain broader insights into the use of no-fault systems to litigate health-care injury disputes.

As part of the study, the researchers have interviewed people who administer, litigate and decide cases within the program and reviewed its legislative history, and they are analyzing published decisions and examining thousands of closed cases to determine how – and how promptly – they were resolved.

The project also has involved law professor Guy Cardineau, the late Dan Strouse, also a law professor, and several law students.

The $12,000 grant will help complete the study and provide support for the researchers to travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss the implications of the findings with program administrators and policymakers, Saks says.

The researchers, all faculty fellows at the College of Law’s Center for the Study of Law, Science & Technology, will offer specific recommendations for potential improvements to the program, as well as general guidelines for designing other alternative injury compensation systems.