The Supreme Court ruled that federal law shields vaccine makers from product-liability lawsuits in state court seeking damages for a child's injuries or death from a vaccine's side effects.
The high court on Tuesday ruled for Wyeth, which is now owned by Pfizer Inc, in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, who suffered seizures as an infant after her third dose of a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine in 1992.
Pfizer and other vaccine makers had argued that a Supreme Court ruling for the plaintiffs could open the door to a flood of lawsuits -- many by families who believe vaccines cause autism -- and threaten the supply of childhood vaccines.
Pfizer Executive Vice President and General Counsel Amy Schulman said the company was pleased with the ruling.
"The Vaccine Act that Congress enacted nearly 25 years ago appropriately places the responsibility for determining the optimal design of life-saving childhood vaccines in the hands of expert federal agencies, not a patchwork of state tort systems," she said.
At issue in the ruling was the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, a law that created a special program to handle disputes in an effort to ensure a stable vaccine supply by shielding companies from most lawsuits.