Paluck v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., No. 14-5080 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
K.P. , born in 2004, exhibited no apparent signs of disability for several months, but was then referred to an infant development service. Extensive testing revealed that K.P. suffered significant delays in motor skills. His cognitive skills were within normal limits. K.P. experienced rashes, later identified as a symptom of erythema multiforme, and ear infections. At his one-year well baby visit, K.P. received the measles-mumps-rubella, pneumococcal, and varicella vaccines. He then had a fever and did not nap or eat well. After visits to multiple medical specialists, K.P. was diagnosed with an unspecified mitochondrial disorder, likely present at birth. He now lives in a state of severe neurological disability. He has “no purposeful movements” and breathes with a ventilator. Seeking benefits under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa, his parents alleged that K.P. sustained a permanent brain injury as a result of the vaccines. Their expert testified that K.P.’s underlying mitochondrial disorder prevented him from coping with the oxidative stress from the vaccines. On remand, the special master accepted that the expert had presented a plausible medical theory, but found that K.P.’s condition did not deteriorate as predicted by that theory. The Claims Court disagreed and awarded compensation. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The parents’ burden was to show that K.P.’s mitochondrial disorder was significantly aggravated by the vaccines, not to rule out every other potential cause.