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Shingles Vaccine Caused Brain Hemorrhage, Lawsuit Alleges

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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, side effects of the shingles vaccine Zostavax caused a New York woman to suffer brain hemorrhaging, and other serious injuries.

Susan Hallock filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on February 28, indicating that Merck & Co. failed to adequately warn about the risks associated with the widely used shingles vaccine.

Hallock was inoculated with Zostavax in October 2016, for the prevention of shingles. However, shortly after the injection she began suffering extreme side effects, which the lawsuit indicates was caused by the vaccine.

“Shortly after receiving Defendants’ Zostavax vaccine, Plaintiff suffered slurred speech, vomiting, and severe left lower extremity pain,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff went unresponsive and suffered right basal ganglia intracerebral hemorrhage.”

Hallock’s lawsuit indicates she was left with permanent injuries and physical limitations due to the shingles vaccine, which contains a live virus that was not sufficiently weakened.

Zostavax was introduced in 2006, as the first shingles vaccine for older adults to protect against the disease. However, the vaccine has largely been abandoned by the medical community, after it was linked to a large number of reports involving severe complications, where it may have caused individuals experienced more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.

Zostavax Litigation

Merck & Co. currently faces more than 1,000 similar  Zostavax lawsuits in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that side effects of the shingles vaccine caused plaintiffs to suffer more severe and persistent outbreaks, as well as various auto-immune disorders, such as meningitis, acute disseminated encephalopmyelitis (ADEM), paralysis and other health problems.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed nationwide, all federal claims are centralized before U.S. District Judge Harry Bartle in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

As part of the coordinated proceedings, Judge Bartle has established a “bellwether” program, where representative claims are being prepared for trial in the MDL, to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. However, last month, Judge Bartle issued a pretrial order (PDF) postponing all deadlines, which is likely to delay the start of the first trial, which was set to begin in November.

While the outcome of the bellwether trials will not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may greatly influence any eventual shingles vaccine settlement negotiations that would be necessary to avoid each of the individual cases being set for separate trial dates in U.S. District Courts nationwide in the coming years.

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