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Shingles Vaccine Zostavax Caused Bell’s Palsy, Eye Injuries, Lawsuit Claims

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A product liability lawsuit filed last week indicates the side effects of the shingles vaccine Zostavax caused a man to suffer facial paralysis, eye injuries, and other injuries associated with the development of shingles, which the vaccine was supposed to prevent.

Edwin Dickson filed the complaint (PDF) against Merck & Co. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on October 28, indicating that the Zostavax vaccination was the direct cause of a number of injuries and complications.

Zostavax is a shingles vaccine first introduced in 2006, involving a single-dose injection that contains a live virus designed to vaccinate older adults against the development of the disease. However, the vaccine has been linked to a large number of reports involving severe complications, where individuals experienced more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.

The complaint joins hundreds of other Zostavax lawsuits over the shingles vaccine filed by individuals throughout the U.S. Court System, each raising similar allegations that Merck sold an unreasonably dangerous and defective injection, which contained a live-virus that was not sufficiently weakened to avoid reactivating the dormant virus in some individuals.

According to the lawsuit, Dickson was inoculated with Zostavax in May 2013. However, less than a month later, in June, he developed a painful shingles outbreak, which also led to eye injuries and form of facial paralysis known as Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s palsy involves a sudden paralysis of facial muscles, which typically causes about half of the face appear to droop. The condition is usually temporary, but involves treatment with powerful corticosteroids, which carry their own side effects.

“Since these initial injuries manifested, Plaintiff still experiences facial paralysis, problems with speech, eating, walking, pain, vision loss and other limitations still today as a result of Zostavax,” Dickson’s lawsuit states. “As a direct and proximate result of Merck’s defective Zostavax vaccine, Plaintiff’s symptoms have resulted in physical injuries and limitations not present prior to using Merck’s product and caused by the Zostavax vaccine.”

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in shingles vaccine lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

As part of the coordinated litigation, Judge Bartle has scheduled a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Merck fails to reach Zostavax settlements or another resolution for the litigation, each individual lawsuit may eventually be remanded back to different U.S. District courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.

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