The Magazine

La Grippe of the Trial Lawyers

From the October 25, 2004 issue: Guess who's to blame for the flu vaccine fiasco.

Oct 25, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 07 • By WILLIAM TUCKER
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With several companies competing in the field, as was once the case, somebody would have been more likely to produce a dark horse vaccine. If that rogue strain emerged, the dissenting company would hit the jackpot, and there would be ample supplies of an effective vaccine, at least for those most at risk. In the "planned economy" of the CDC, however, there is no back-up for an unexpected turn of events. This year there isn't even a front line.

Are trial lawyers ready to accept responsibility for their starring role in creating this health hazard? Don't hold your breath. "This is just the typical garbage and propaganda from the drug manufacturers," says Carlton Carl, spokesman for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. "There's absolutely no disincentive for making vaccines. American companies don't do it for the same reason they're sending jobs overseas--because it increases their profits."

Whether doctors are quitting the profession because of an out-of-control tort system, whether malpractice premiums are the cause of health care increases--such hardy perennials of the litigation debate are still a subject of lively controversy. But with vaccines there is no argument. Trial lawyers have all but ruined the market. Yet they are still unwilling to take responsibility.

William Tucker is a fellow at the Discovery Institute. His book on trial lawyers, Civil Lynchings, will be published next year.