Boy With Seizures Gets $4.5 Million

Latrobe, Pennsylvania 
April 20, 1990

BRADFORD, Pa. (AP) - Vaccinations routinely given to infants took a tragic toll on little Andrew Nuzzo - he was left retarded, the victim of chronic seizures and in need of constant care.

Three years after his birth, his parents received another shock, but this one also caused relief. They received an award of $4.5 million to help care for their son.

Kenneth Moll of Chicago, the attorney for the Nuzzos, said Wednesday he believes the award is the largest given under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Collen (sic) Nuzzo of Bradford, Andrew's mother, said the money will be used to pay for rehabilitation and care of her son, who was given two DPT shots in 1986. DPT shots protect against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.

In a limited number of cases, the vaccine causes brain damage, resulting in shock, convulsions and even death. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimate one in 310,000 DPT vaccinations results in permanent brain damage.

DPT is part of routine immunization for children. The government estimates that about 18 million DPT doses are given each year, including three shots the first year for 3.5 million newborns and two boosters, one at 18 months and another just before entering kindergarten.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was authorized by Congress in 1986 to compensate children crippled by inoculations or the families of those killed by them.

Claims are paid out of a trust fund that is financed by surcharges on DPT, polio and the mumps-measles-rubella vaccines.

The award for Andrew was approved April 12 by Special Master Bryan J. Bernstein of the U.S. Claims Court in Washington, D.C.

Andrew suffers 100 to 2,000 seizures a day and he often goes into a trance that can be triggered by exposure to light or by seeing patterns on clothing or a wall, his mother said.

The Nuzzos keep their windows blacked out with blinds and poster board and cannot let Andrew outside during the day. He must wear dark glasses all the time and often wears a helmet to protect his head from injury when he suffers a seizure.

The interior walls of the Nuzzos' home are painted a flat color and Mrs. Nuzzo said her and her husband, David, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sara, wear no patterned clothing.

The injury left Andrew developmentally disabled. He knows only a few simple words and cannot talk in complete sentences.

The award was based on estimates that Andrew's medical and non-medical expenses will cost about $67,000 a year as a child and about $102,000 a year as an adult.

Andrew also was awarded $30,000 in lost wages.

U.S. to pay 4.5 million DPT Award

By Teresa Sullivan
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
April 19, 1990

In what is believed to be the largest award of its kind, a four-year-old boy who suffers from seven different types of seizures as a result of receiving a diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus shot as an infant will receive more than $4.5 million, according to a ruling by the U.S. Claims Court.

The award, $4,534,012, is believed to be the largest one resulting from the Vaccine Compensation Act, 42 U.S.C.A. 300aa-10 through 300aa-34, according to the petitioner's Chicago attorney, Kenneth B. Moll of McDowell & Colantoni Ltd.

Previously the largest award was $2.1 million, he said.

Effective in October 1988, the act provides compensation for individuals who can show that they exhibited certain symptoms within the time frame in the vaccine injury table, Moll said.

These symptoms, which include shock, residual seizure disorder and brain damage, must appear within three days after administration of the DPT shot in order to receive compensation.

The four-year-old, Andrew D. Nuzzo of Bradford, Pa., suffers from several different types of seizure disorders, Moll said.

Nuzzo received DPT shots when he was two months old and four months old. His disorders began to surface within three days after the first shot, Moll said. Nuzzo exhibits all three symptoms including brain damage, residual seizure disorder and shock.

To illustrate his illnesses, the Nuzzos brought their son to the hearing. The hearing, held before Special Master Bryan Bernstein, was held in Pittsburgh to accommodate the Nuzzos.

Andrew Nuzzo, who is usually strapped into his stroller and wears glasses and a helmut (sic) to protect himself, was unstrapped and his glasses and helmut(sic) were taken off him. He screamed and suffered a petit mal seizure, Moll said.

The amount of compensation is for future medical care which was determined to be $67,000 per year while Nuzzo is a child and $102,000 per year when Nuzzo becomes an adult, Moll said.

Barbara Hudson, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommended that Bernstein deny the compensation on the grounds that the Nuzzos did not meet the requirements for compensation, Moll said. Hudson who is on a leave of absence, could not be reached for comment.

When the act was passed, it provided that anyone who wanted to make a claim needed to do so within two years of the alleged symptoms, Moll said. However, Congress stipulated that anyone who received a DPT shot at any time prior to 1989 could file a claim by October 1990, Moll said. This is why the Nuzzos were able to file their claim, Colleen Nuzzo, legal representative of the estate of Andrew D. Nuzzo, a minor, petitioner v. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, No. 88-74-V.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Claims Court also awarded $1,306,017 to Amanda Beck,11, of Milwaukee, for injuries she allegedly received after being given DPT as an infant, according to her Chicago attorney, Norman J. Lerum.

Amanda was born on Dec. 18, 1978 in Honolulu to Gail and Henry J. Beck, both of whom were serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, Lerum said. On Jan. 26, 1979, she received the first of two DPT shots at the Tripler Army Medical Center Well Baby and Neonatal Follow-up Clinic, Lerum said.

Prior to the DPT shot, Amanda was described by her Doctor as a "healthy infant female," Lerum said.

But after receiving the DPT shot, Amanda began to experience frequent seizures, Lerum said. Nevertheless, she received a second DPT shot on April 20, 1979, and within a few days her seizures became much more frequent and she became more lethargic, Lerum said.

The U.S. Court of Claims special master Paul T. Baird had recommended that Amanda receive $1,443,359 for future medical and rehabilitative expenses; $307,017 for loss of income; $150,000 for pain and suffering and emotional distress; and $75,963.90 to recover reasonable attorney's fees and costs, Lerum said.

The U.S. government was represented by John Euler of the U.S. Justice Department.

Award Made in DPT Case

June 1990

On August 18, 1986, a child had his first DPT shot. Immediately after the shot he screamed for three minutes and cried for ten minutes. The next day he screamed throughout the day and had a glassy look in his eyes. He also stood straight up on his toes. The child was taken to a hospital six days after the shot, but his parents were assured that there was nothing wrong with him.

A second DPT vaccination was administered on October 13, 1986. After this shot, the child suffered a hypotonic collapse. He lay flat on his back with his arms to his side, glassy eyed, non-responsive and listless. Four days later he began to have shudders. On November 1, 1986, he had a grand mal seizure.

An action was brought under the National Childhood Vaccine Act.

Injury: The child is completely disabled, he has 100-2000 seizures a day, including photosensitive seizures, focal seizures, headdrop seizures, petit mal seizures and grand mal seizures.

Plaintiff sought damages of $67,000 per year during childhood, and $102,000 a year during adulthood. The present value these expenses was $4.5 million.

Result: A special master awarded $4.5 million.

Plaintiff's Expert Witnesses: Mark Geir, M.D., Bethesda, Md; Marcel Kinsbourne, M.D., Boston, Mass.; Allan Spector, damages expert, Chicago, Ill.; Arthur Dobbelaere, economist, Chicago, Ill.

Plaintiff's Attorney: Kenneth Moll (sic) of McDowell & Colantoni, Chicago, Ill.

Nuzzo v. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, 88-74V (U.S. Ct. of Claims, Wash. D.C. 1990).

Plaintiff's attorney, Kenneth Moll (sic), comments that the special master was asked to travel from Washington D.C. to Pittsburg so that he could see the child himself. The judge allowed the child to stay in the court room even though the child had seizures that included screaming.