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Sullivan v. Holy Redeemer Hosp. and Med. Ctr.

Pennsylvania Superior Court

September 24, 2021

Plaintiff (no relation to S | S), a nurse manager who worked in Defendants’ operating room, received a tetanus vaccination from Defendants’ Emergency Department. After the injection, Plaintiff experienced severe burning and tingling pain in the back of her shoulder and neck. Plaintiff could not complete her work shift that day and sought medical treatment over the next 3 years. Plaintiff filed this action claiming that Defendants were negligent in their injection of the tetanus vaccine. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (the Vaccine Act) barred the suit. Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that her injury was not a vaccine-related injury because the negligence was in the injection, rather than the content of the vaccine, and that the Vaccine Act, therefore, did not apply. The trial court denied the motion. Defendants timely filed a motion to certify the order for interlocutory appeal. Following the trial court’s denial of that motion, Defendants filed a petition for permission to appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court per Pa.R.A.P. 1311. The Court reversed and held that the exhaustion of remedies requirement of the Vaccine Act barred Plaintiff’s action. The outcome turned on whether Plaintiff asserted a claim for a vaccine-related injury. An injury is vaccine-related and is subject to the Vaccine Act if the vaccine was a cause of the injury, even if the only tortious conduct alleged is unrelated to the content of the vaccine. The fact that Plaintiff claimed that the person administering the vaccine injected it incorrectly did not remove the action from the Vaccine Act’s coverage.

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