20 May 2013

Law in Plain English: Sebelius v. Cloer

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

Sebelius v. Cloer

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (provides compensation to those who are injured by certain vaccines. Claims are generally required to be filed within three years of the first symptom. Lawyers cannot charge fees for representing their clients, but can recover fees from the program for petitions filed in good faith and with a substantial basis. Cloer filed a claim in 2005 for symptoms first noticed in 1997. A special master and the Court of Federal Claims dismissed her petition as untimely. A divided panel of the Federal Circuit reversed, and then the circuit en banc reversed yet again, finding the petition untimely. Cloer's lawyer sought attorney's fees, and a divided Federal Circuit agreed. The question before the Court was whether a person whose petition under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is dismissed as untimely may recover from the United States an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that an untimely petition may qualify for an award of attorney’s fees if it is filed in good faith and there is a reasonable basis for its claim. As a result, Cloer's attorney can recover fees. The statute of limitations for the claim is not tied to the fees recovery provision.
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