(THE TIMES UK) – Families are lodging claims alleging negligence by lawyers who handled their class action claiming that MMR vaccine may have caused autism. They allege negligence on the part of lawyers who handled their class action claiming that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine may have caused autism and other side effects. More than 1,000 families were involved in a class action that was dropped in 2003 after it emerged that research by Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who was later struck off, was flawed and his concerns about the MMR vaccine were groundless.
The claims relate to a strain of the vaccine that was used between 1988 and 1992. However, the families maintain that they missed the opportunity to claim compensation because their lawyers were outside the ten-year time limit. Some also maintain that the lawyers failed to pursue action based on the right strain of vaccine and they were therefore deprived of the opportunity of obtaining damages because they were grouped with the unsuccessful autism and bowel problem claims.
Iris Porter, whose son Matthew, now 22, received the vaccine, said:
“I feel that I have lost the chance to show that my son’s autism, which is extreme, was not caused by bad parenting — which was what always seemed to be suggested.”
Mrs Porter, from Falkirk, said that she did not treat her son any differently from her other three children but that after the vaccination, having reached “all the milestones — laughing, sitting up, talking” — he suddenly regressed. He eventually had autism diagnosed.
Her solicitors originally said that the claim time ran from the date of the vaccination that her son had at age 16 months, she said.
“But we now know that the correct date runs from the manufacturer’s date of supply. Because they were too late, even had we been successful, the claim would have been thrown out. Her son is severely autistic and needed constant care, she said.”
Michael Shaw, from Carter Moore solicitors in Manchester, who sent a letter of claim last week, said:
“This action is important because it potentially compensates some of those families that were led to believe that there was a large pot of money available to them at the end of the now discredited MMR litigation cases.”
Similar proceedings are being brought by Luke Patel, from Blacks Solicitors in Leeds. Mr Patel said:
“We act for a number of former MMR vaccine litigants in professional negligence claims against their former lawyers.”
The law firms that handled the original claims include Freeth Cartwright, Hodge Jones & Allen and Irwin Mitchell. All are contesting the claims vigorously.