Trials & Litigation

Woman who filed vaccine suit too late can still get attorney fees, Supreme Court says

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Melissa Cloer filed suit too late to win any potential damages for her claimed injury from hepatitis B vaccines.

But that doesn’t preclude an award of attorney fees under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Monday opinion (PDF) authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Because the attorney fees provisions in the statute do not reference the same 36-month statute of limitations that applies to claims for relief, attorney fees may be awarded even if the lawsuit itself is filed too late, the nation’s top court explains.

“If Congress had intended to limit fee awards to timely petitions, it could easily have done so. But the NCVIA instead authorizes courts to award attorney’s fees for those unsuccessful petitions ‘brought in good faith and [for which] there was a reasonable basis.’ “

The Associated Press, Courthouse News and Reuters have stories.

Updated on May 21 to link to subsequent Reuters article.

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