Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
Deribeaux v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.
Madison received a DTaP vaccination at age seven months and the next day suffered a prolonged seizure. Her temperature was recorded as 103.6 degrees. She continued to experience seizures and was admitted to the hospital again, a year later, with recurrent convulsive episodes. When she was about four years old, genetic testing revealed that Madison had a DNA sequence variation that was not inherited and arose spontaneously. Such mutations have been associated with several epilepsy syndromes. Her parents sued under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 300aa, which established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program through which claimants can obtain compensation for vaccine-related injuries or death. Before the DNA test, a special master concluded that Madison was entitled to compensation, but the DNA test was disclosed during the damages phase. The special master ultimately denied compensation. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the special master properly analyzed whether, after the plaintiffs established a prima facie case, the government carried its burden to prove that a factor unrelated to the vaccine was the sole substantial cause of the injuries. View "Deribeaux v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Parks v. Shinseki
Parks served in Vietnam 1964-1966. Along with 6,000 other soldiers, Parks volunteered for “Project 112” and was intentionally exposed to chemical warfare agents. In 2000 and in 2002, Parks sought service connection for diabetes type II with peripheral neuropathy and heart disability. The Regional Office denied the claims. While appeal was pending, the government declassified details about chemicals used in Project 112. The Department of Defense reported that it did not know of any long-term effects caused by exposure to the chemicals, but the Veterans Health Administration required the VA to provide to Project 112 veterans “a thorough clinical evaluation,” enhanced access to the VA health care system, and free care for any illness possibly related to their participation” and 38 U.S.C. 1710(e)(1)(E) provides specific services for veterans who participated in Project 112. The VA sent Parks a letter identifying the chemicals to which he had been exposed and providing instructions on how to obtain additional medical examinations. Ultimately, the Veterans’ Court denied a service connection. The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding reasoning that a nurse practitioner is able to provide a medical examination that meets the regulatory requirements of competent medical evidence and refusal to consider information found on the Internet. View "Parks v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
Kyhn v. Shinseki
Kyhn served in the U.S. Army 1945-1946. In 1998, he filed a claim for service-connected hearing loss, which was denied by the regional office. Kyhn submitted a Notice of Disagreement, with medical evidence from his private audiologist and asserted that he was seeking service connection for tinnitus. The RO granted service connection for hearing loss at a 50% rating, but denied service connection for tinnitus. Kyhn did not appeal. The decision became final. In 2004, Kyhn sought to reopen his tinnitus claim and presented another letter from his private audiologist. Although the RO declined to reopen the tinnitus claim, the Board found the private audiologist’s statement constituted new and material evidence and remanded. Kyhn failed to appear and the Board denied service connection, based on the evidence of record. The Veterans Court found the VA had a regular practice to provide veterans with notice of their VA examinations and applied the presumption of regularity to presume the VA had properly notified Kyhn in accordance with this practice and affirmed the denial. The Federal Circuit vacated because of the lower court’s reliance on affidavits that were not part of the record before the Board. View "Kyhn v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
Figueroa v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.
Figueroa received the flu vaccine in 2008. Within 20 days, he developed numbness in his face, impaired speech, and weakness. He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a sometimes fatal nervous system disorder. Because GBS is not listed on the Vaccine Injury Table, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-14(a), it requires proof of causation, although flu vaccine GBS cases have been compensated under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. Figueroa had 36 months from the onset of symptoms to file a petition under the Act (until November, 2011), but, in 2010, he died of pancreatic cancer. His widow timely sought compensation for the vaccine-related neurological injuries suffered prior to his death. A special master dismissed, reasoning that because Figueroa had died of pancreatic cancer, a non-vaccine-related cause, Ms. Figueroa lacked standing to seek injury compensation. The Court of Federal Claims affirmed. The Federal Circuit reversed, interpreting a section that provides: “any person who has sustained a vaccine-related injury, the legal representative of such person if such person is a minor or is disabled, or the legal representative of any person who died as the result of the administration of a vaccine ... may ... file a petition for compensation,” 42 U.S.C. 300aa-11(b)(1)(A) View "Figueroa v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Vazquez-Claudio v. Shinseki
Vazquez-Claudio is a Vietnam veteran. Following his service, Vazquez-Claudio filed a claim with the VA seeking disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2005, after finding that his PTSD was service- connected, the VA granted his request for benefits with an effective date in June, 1994. The VA rated Mr. Vazquez-Claudio’s PTSD as 50 percent disabling, Vazquez-Claudio appealed, arguing entitlement to a 70 percent rating. He had been unable to work since 1994, when he left his job as a police officer as the result of an emotional breakdown following a prisoner’s suicide. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals found that other than occasional suicidal ideation, social isolation, and some difficulty adapting to stressful situations, none of his symptoms corresponded to impairment greater than 50 percent. The Veterans Court agreed, stating that “[t]he issue before the Board was not how many ‘areas’ Mr. Vazquez-Claudio has demonstrated deficiencies in but, rather, ‘the frequency, severity, and duration of the psychiatric symptoms, the length of remissions, and Mr. Vazquez-Claudio’s capacity for adjustment during periods of remission.’” The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Vazquez-Claudio v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
Walker v. Shinseki
Walker served in the U.S. Army Air Force, 1943 to 1945, as a four-engine airplane pilot and flight instructor. The VA Regional Office denied his 2007 disability claim for bilateral hearing loss. Walker appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals, including sworn statements from his son and wife that his hearing loss began in service and continued throughout his life. Walker was examined by a VA audiologist. Walker’s service medical records were not available due to a fire. The audiologist concluded that the hearing loss was “less likely as not caused primarily by military service as a pilot,” that age could not be excluded as the primary etiology, and that Walker was exposed to recreational noise by hunting game without use of hearing protection. The Board concluded that Walker failed under the three-element test to establish service connection for his hearing loss. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Walker v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
W.C. v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.
The plaintiff claimed that an influenza vaccination he received n 2004 at the age of 34 resulted in the onset of multiple sclerosis or significantly aggravated his preexisting, but asymptomatic, multiple sclerosis. A special master denied his claim for compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1 to -34. The Claims Court and the Federal Circuit affirmed. View "W.C. v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
King v. Shinseki
A VA regional office awarded King disability compensation for residuals of a left knee surgery and right knee arthritis. King later sought disability compensation for disabilities of the back and hips on a direct basis and as secondary to his service-connected knee disabilities. Records revealed no treatment for back or hip problems during King's active duty service 1973-1974. King underwent a VA spine examination in 2000. The examiner diagnosed minimal degenerative joint disease of both hips and lumbosacral spine, related to age. A private physician disagreed. In 2007, the Board of Veterans denied King's appeal. The Veterans Court remanded. Additional evidence was developed and, in 2008, the Board obtained an opinion from a Veterans Hospital Administration orthopedist that it was not likely that King’s back and bilateral hip disabilities were directly caused or permanently worsened by the service-connected knee disabilities. The Board and Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims affirmed the denial. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Veterans Court erred by discounting lay testimony offered by King and his wife. The Veterans Court did not fail to consider the proffered lay evidence, so King’s appeal was merely a challenge to the weight given his evidence.View "King v. Shinseki" on Justia Law
Hibbard v. Sec’y Health & Human Servs.
Hibbard, then 41 years old and working as a teacher, received a flu vaccination in 2003. She claims that the flu vaccine caused her to develop a neurological disorder known as dysautonomia, a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system and sought compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C.300aa-1 to 300aa-34. Following a two-day hearing, a special master found that Hibbard had failed to show that her dysautonomia resulted from autonomic neuropathy caused by the vaccine she received in 2003. The Court of Federal Claims upheld the decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding substantial evidence to support the denial. View "Hibbard v. Sec'y Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.
Wake Forest is the owner of asserted patents, and KCI are the exclusive licensees of the patents, which claim methods and apparatuses for treating difficult-to-heal wounds by applying suction or negative pressure. In response to S&N’s 2008 announcement that it was launching a new foam-based negative pressure wound treatment product, Wake Forest and KCI asserted that S&N infringes two apparatus claims of the patent and induces infringement of four method claims. Rejecting the jury’s findings of non-obviousness, the district court found obviousness, based on prior art, and rejected infringement claims. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. The objective evidence strongly supported the jury’s findings under the first three Graham factors and cut against the view that the claimed inventions were an obvious combination of known elements from the prior art. View "Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law