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Schafer v. American Cyanamid Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
20 F.3d 1 (1994)


Facts

Lenita Schafer’s young daughter, Melissa (plaintiff), received an oral polio vaccine distributed by American Cyanamid Company (American Cyanamid) (defendant). Subsequently, Lenita contracted polio from what she believed to be the vaccine administered to Melissa. Pursuant to the provisions of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1 to 300aa-34, Melissa, Lenita, and her husband Mark (plaintiff) followed a special claims procedure and filed petitions for compensation in a Court of Federal Claims, commonly called the Vaccine Court. The Act awarded compensation to those injured by certain vaccines. Once the Vaccine Court made an award to a petitioner, the individual could not thereafter file a tort suit in state court to obtain additional compensation. Subsequently, Mark and Melissa withdrew their petitions from the Vaccine Court and, instead, filed suit in federal district court against American Cyanamid seeking damages under Massachusetts tort law for the loss of Lenita’s companionship and consortium. Lenita, who did not withdraw her petition, was awarded $750,000 by the Vaccine Court for her own injuries, thereby forfeiting her right to pursue a state tort action. American Cyanamid filed a motion to dismiss Mark and Melissa’s suit on the ground that Lenita’s acceptance of the Vaccine Court’s award barred any state tort action by other family members. The district court denied the motion. American Cyanamid filed an interlocutory appeal to the court of appeals seeking review of the district court’s judgment.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, C.J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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