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'Just getting started': Lawyer foresees flood of comp claims by COVID vaccine-injured clients

Workers compensation systems could be boon for vaccine-injured workers coerced by their employers, lawyer says. New analysis of CDC vaccination survey data says about 8% of participants reported seeking medical attention, 25% missing school or work.

Published: October 17, 2022 6:42pm

Updated: October 17, 2022 11:11pm

More than 7,000 claims have been filed alleging serious injury from COVID-19 vaccines as of Sept. 1, according to the most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, which covers vaccines identified by HHS under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, has yet to provide compensation for any of them. 

The vast majority of claims remain pending, but CICP has also rejected about three dozen applications for failure to provide "compelling, reliable, valid, medical and scientific evidence" that the injury was the "direct result" of a vaccine issued in the past year.

For those who don't want to wait for a longshot payment from the feds — or for a fractious Congress to reform CICP — they may be able to find faster relief in their own backyard.

Lawyers nationwide are trading notes on how to represent vaccine-injured clients, and some are trying state workers compensation systems for clients with plausible COVID vaccine injuries who were coerced to take the jabs as a condition of employment.

"We're trying to slot people into the right lawyers" for their specific vaccine issues, said Ohio-based Warner Mendenhall, who is also representing vaccine trial whistleblower Brook Jackson in a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and its contractors. The attorney is working with groups including the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, Children's Health Defense and First Liberty Institute.

Mendenhall started researching the viability of workers comp this spring and got his first ruling for his first client last week. An Ohio administrative court recognized the validity of the vaccine injury but rejected the compensation claim because the client took the vaccine "in anticipation" of a mandate set to take effect a week later.

"I feel very bad for the client, but I'm happy for the ruling" validating the injury, Mendenhall told Just the News, adding that he has grounds to appeal. The cases are "just getting started," including for a coerced nurse in her 40s who will require "lifetime care," he said, predicting the swell of claims could bankrupt workers comp funds.

New York-based lawyer Robert Krakow told Just the News he's been referring prospective vaccine-injury clients who were subject to employer mandates to lawyers who handle workers comp. 

He's taken hundreds of calls from prospective clients whose injuries include stroke, blindness and paralysis, but said he tells them he can't do much under CICP, "an opaque program where you don't even know what the procedure is" and attorney's fees aren't available. 

Krakow relayed a recent conversation with a potential client who fainted soon after taking a COVID vaccine. The drugstore clinic had refused to let her sit down, a failure to accommodate that a court may determine was the primary cause of fainting rather than the vaccine. "That's a gray area" legally, he said.

Reliable estimates for the frequency of COVID vaccine injuries are sparse. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) is a passive tool, and the CDC told Reuters it hopes to post the public dataset from its "v-safe" survey program of 10 million participants by late November, two months later than it previously promised a court.

The plaintiff in that Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Informed Consent Action Network, received a "raw" version of the v-safe data from the CDC. Under its analysis of the data, which are missing "free-form fields," 7.7% of participants reported they sought medical attention following vaccination, and 25% said they missed school or work due to adverse reactions.

The workers comp route is attractive to lawyers because it's relatively straightforward in every state and shouldn't be preempted by the currently suspended federal vaccine mandate on large employers, Mendenhall said. 

He pointed to a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that moved a wrongful-death COVID lawsuit against a nursing home back to state court, finding the claims weren't preempted by the federal PREP Act.

The main problem is "people are really unaware" they can pursue such claims for coerced vaccine injuries and may wait too long to seek them, Mendenhall said. He has to rush on behalf of clients to meet Ohio's statute of limitations; one woman who lost her speech and mobility called him days after her claim expired.

He's working with local doctors who review clients' medical histories to show that COVID vaccines were the "proximate cause" of their injuries, which Mendenhall described as "typical" of those filed in VAERS. Their names will eventually be public by law, Mendenhall said, but he doesn't want to name them for now.

Mendenhall is also representing a mother seeking to keep her son from getting vaccinated against COVID, which is generally recommended by public health authorities and mainstream medical groups regardless of age or risk factors. 

The father of the boy, who has suffered "anaphylactic reactions to prior shots," wants him to get vaccinated. Mendenhall said he warned the doctor about liability that would stem from refusal to evaluate the ingredients in the vaccine in relation to the boy's medical history.

Such a failure by a medical professional arguably constitutes battery under state law because it denies informed consent to the potential victim of vaccination, according to Mendenhall. 

An Ohio children's hospital that set up vaccination clinics in local public schools could be held liable for distributing flyers that said COVID vaccines were "safe and effective for your child," he said. They lacked "even the most limited information" about potentially dangerous interactions based on medical history.

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