Lawsuit Alleges Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) Caused by Zostavax Shingles Vaccine

According to allegations raised in a recent product liability lawsuit filed against Merck, side effects of the Zostavax shingles vaccine caused a progressive neurological disorder known as Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD), which surfaced shortly after the plaintiff was inoculated.

The complaint (PDF) was filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, indicating that Ronald Piwnicki began to experience tremors in his hands shortly after receiving the single-dose shingles vaccine, which progressed into significant cognitive decline, including loss of his ability to speak and walk.

Although Zostavax was introduced as a vaccine for prevention of shingles and other zoster infections, it has been linked to reports of more severe shingles outbreaks and other neurological problems, due to the use of an “under-attenuated” live virus contained in the vaccine.

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Side effects of the shingles vaccine Zostavax may result in the development of a painful and persistent strain of shingles

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“Since Zostavax’s introduction in 2006, vaccine adverse event reports (VAERs) appeared in significant numbers addressing various adverse effects, including, but not limited to, viral infection resulting in disease of the central nervous system, including acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and acute traverse myelitis,” the lawsuit notes. “As a direct and proximate result of Merck’s defective Zostavax vaccine, the Plaintiffs’ symptoms and diagnoses have resulted in physical limitations not present prior to using Merck’s product.”

Piwnicki presents claims of negligence, design defect, failure to warn, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and his wife has filed a complaint of loss of consortium. They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The case will join a growing number of similar Zostavax vaccine lawsuits that are currently pending in the federal court system. Given similar questions of fact and law, claims filed nationwide are centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

As part of the coordinated MDL proceedings, it is expected that a small group of representative cases will be selected for early “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Merck fails to negotiate Zostavax settlements for individuals who have been left with problems, or otherwise resolve the litigation, each individual case may eventually be remanded back to the federal district court where it originated for a separate trial date in the future.


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