A US court ruled in July 2008 in favour of a little boy called Benjamin Zeller, who recieved an MMR vaccination
on 17th November 2004 and suffered with persistant seizures, encephalopathy and developmental delay.
Here is the court's ruling:
It also seems evident that the vaccine was a substantial factor in causing the injury found by the Court, which, prima facie, would appear to satisfy the element of proximate cause in this case. Applying the traditional legal rule from Tort law, that Respondent takes Petitioner as he finds him (a.k.a. the "Eggshell Skull Rule"), the fact that Benjamin may have had a genetic predisposition or a physiologic susceptibility does not defeat Petitioner's case as a superseding factor. So long as the vaccine was a substantial factor, and its influence was not overborne by a superseding cause, the Court is justified in ruling that the proximate causation requirement is satisfied.
Applying the so-called Althen elements to Petitioner's theory of causation, the Court rules that Petitioner, through Dr. Kinsbourne, has proffered a medically plausible theory of causation that links the injury found by the Court to the vaccination at issue via a logical explanation of cause and effect, all within a medically appropriate time frame between vaccination and the onset of the initial seizure, and the overarching timeline of Benjamin's medical course. Dr. Kinsbourne's theory, corroborated by the medical literature filed in this case, posits preponderant evidence that the MMR vaccine can cause encephalopathy and seizures. Likewise, a review of the medical records filed in this case serve to support the contention that such pathologic process was indeed at work in the instant case. Accordingly, the evidence proffered and the findings of the Court stated above combine to satisfy the can it-did it test as well.
The logical sequela of these findings of fact is that Petitioners have carried their burden of proof on the issue of vaccine-related causation. Inasmuch as the other elements of ? 300aa-11 (b) and (c) have already been satisfied, the Court holds that Petitioners have met their burden on their case in chief, on the ultimate issue of entitlement to compensation.
The burden now shifts to Respondent to proffer a factor unrelated to the vaccine as either a more likely cause of the injury found by the Court, or as a superseding cause of the injury that obviated any effect of the vaccine. This Respondent has not done. The only medical explanation proffered by Respondent was the predestination of intractable seizures, encephalopathy, and developmental delay based on an undetermined genetic predisposition toward neurodegeneration. As discussed by the Court above when addressing proximate causation on Petitioner's case in chief, the Court's findings in this case are inconsistent with a ruling that Benjamin's genetic susceptibilities overbore the effect of the vaccine as a superseding cause. Likewise, there is not a preponderance of evidence from within the medical records that any specific alternative diagnosis-not a single named etiology confirmed by testing-could be identified. Unconfirmed speculation by a few treating doctors, as with Dr. Wiznitzer's hypothesization, were unconfirmed by testing in the first instance, and unsupported by the medical records in the second. Consequently, the Court concludes that there is not a factor unrelated to overcome Petitioner's evidence on causation.
Download full court transcript in PDF.