Sebelius v. Cloer
November 20, 2012
Case #: 12-236
Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 675 F.3d 1358 (2012) (en banc)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/09-5052%20order.pdf
Attorney Fees: Whether a person who untimely files a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is eligible for an award of attorneys’ fees when the claim was brought in good faith and with a reasonable basis.
Shortly after Respondent was vaccinated for Hepatitis B in 1996 and 1997, she developed symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), but didn’t learn of a connection between the Hepatitis B vaccine and MS until 2005. When she did learn of the connection, she filed a claim in the Court of Federal Claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that was established by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa–1 et seq., (Vaccine Act), but the court dismissed her claim as untimely filed because it was past the 36 month statute of limitations.
Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed the Court of Federal Claims, but then granted a rehearing en banc and vacated its earlier opinion. Respondent again appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, this time seeking an award for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by her appeal.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, meeting en banc, held 7-6 that even if a petition under the Vaccine Act is untimely filed, the person filing is eligible for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs provided that the petition was brought in good faith and with a reasonable basis.
On appeal, Petitioner argues that a plain reading of the statute bars attorneys' fees because the fees section also refers to an earlier section which prevents filing a petition past the statute of limitations. Further, Petitioner argues the Court of Appeals’ decision would have adverse effects on the Vaccine Act’s compensation program by consuming substantial resources for fee determinations.