Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic

Established in 1994, the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic was the first of its kind in the country. Students in the year-long clinic represent families of young children and adults seeking compensation for vaccine-related injuries and deaths and appear in trial, mediation, and appellate proceedings before the US Court of Federal Claims and the Office of Special Masters.

The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic focuses on critical public health issues in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). Clinic participants become admitted as student-attorneys in the US Court of Federal Claims and, acting under their supervising attorneys, have the authority to do everything that an attorney can do. Working in two four-person teams, students interview prospective clients, draft legal petitions for compensation, obtain and file pertinent medical records with the court, interview and obtain statements from witnesses and medical experts, prepare settlement and damages demands, negotiate with US Department of Justice attorneys, participate in trials, conduct direct and cross-examinations of fact and expert witnesses, prepare opening and closing statements, and draft appellate briefs and argue appeals. In the past, clinic students have also drafted amicus briefs for the US Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Most recently, clinic students have engaged in legislative efforts to assist those injured by COVID-19 vaccines and to modernize the NVIC, including drafting legislation and conducting educational meetings with legislative staff addressing issues within the NVICP. Students do not need a medical or science background to participate.

The clinic has obtained millions of dollars of compensation for clients in a wide variety of cases to ensure that children and adults with severe mental and physical disabilities resulting from vaccine injuries receive excellent care for the rest of their lives. The clinic has also won important appellate victories, including rulings from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, making it easier for vaccine-injured persons to obtain compensation in court.

Contact Us

The George Washington University Law School
Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics
Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic
2000 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20052
202.994.7463

Faculty

Renée J. Gentry


Additional Information

About the Faculty

Distinguished Professorial Lecturer in Law and Director, Renée J. Gentry

Ms. Gentry is the Director of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic.

Ms. Gentry founded her own firm, the Law Office of Renée J. Gentry, Esq. in Washington DC, specializing in vaccine injury litigation in June 2019. She is one of the leading experts on vaccine injury litigation in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP).

Ms. Gentry has advised numerous congressional members, staff, and committees on issues relevant to the NVICP, and she has also helped to draft proposed legislation. She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and is admitted to the Federal Claims Court Bar. She is a member of the Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar Association, a national bar representing the interests of claimants in the NVICP, where she served as President for four years. She is also a member of the US Court of Federal Claims Bar Association and the American Association for Justice (formerly ATLA).

Previously, she served as the Senior Analyst on the Defense and Aerospace Companies Briefing for Teal Group Corporation. Ms. Gentry consulted for the US Government, French Government, and major prime contractors on European defense industry consolidation, antitrust issues, specific defense market overviews for product development and profiles of companies designed to assist management in acquisition activities. After leaving Teal Group, she worked as principal liaison to corporate clients, as well as the Washington National Opera and Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program advising them on a range of immigration issues. She has practiced vaccine litigation since 2001.

In addition to directing the Clinic, Ms. Gentry has, in the past, taught Disability Rights Law and a component of the Systemic Racism reading group.

Policy Initiatives

Students in the clinic have the opportunity to become involved in other law reform activities in the vaccine injury area. For example, in 2010 and 2011, students in the clinic researched and drafted amici curiae briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in cases involving important vaccine-related issues. In 2010, the clinic submitted a brief in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc., a case involving the scope of the Vaccine Act’s preemption provision. In 2011, the class researched and drafted an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to grant review in the Cloer v. The Department of Health and Human Services, a case involving

Recently, Students have advised Congressional offices on legislative changes to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and have submitted detailed Comments on proposed amendments to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Rules for vaccine injury cases. Students have also been involved in the annual Judicial Conferences put on by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, as well as the annual Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar Association conferences, which are routinely hosted by the law school.

Information for Students

The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic is a two-semester clinic offered for 4, 5 or 6 credits each semester. The objectives of this clinic include teaching litigation skills, such as interviewing and counseling, investigation and discovery, developing a case theory, researching and drafting written pleadings, oral advocacy, negotiations and proper billing. The Clinic also focuses on professional responsibility, including determining a lawyer’s role, defining and meeting responsibilities, time management, case management, working collaboratively with other professionals and student-attorney colleagues, and resolving ethical issues. Students in the clinic also examine and critique the operation of the NVICP.

Students may not be able to participate in the Clinic if they are also employed (via externship or otherwise) or interning with a federal government agency. Conflicts checks will have to be completed prior to admission into the Clinic.

Most recently students are also given many “value-added” components including opportunities to meet with the Chief Special Master of the Office of Special Masters, attendance at the Federal Judicial Conference as well as invitations to the Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar Association bi-annual meetings, resumé review by a hiring partner in a major law firm, and the opportunity to participate in or observe hearings being conducted by the supervising attorneys or other members of the Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar.

Information for Prospective Clients

The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic at The George Washington University represents individuals bringing claims for compensation for vaccine-related injuries before the United States Court of Federal Claims. The Clinic has represented a large number of children and adults in claims involving a variety of vaccines and numerous types of injuries.

Persons interested in having the Clinic represent them should email Professor Gentry or call: 202.994.8161. A law student-attorney will be happy to speak to you about the possibility of representing you, or provide you with further information resources.

Client Eligibility Resources

Client Eligibility Requirements

The clinic accepts cases involving children and adults injured by or who have died as a result of receiving the following vaccines covered in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:

  • Vaccines containing tetanus toxoid (e.g., DTaP, DTP, DT, Td, or TT)
  • Vaccines containing whole cell pertussis bacteria, extracted or partial cell pertussis bacteria, or specific pertussis antigen(s) (e.g., DTP, DTaP, P, DTP-Hib)
  • Vaccines containing measles, mumps, and rubella virus or any of its components (e.g., MMR, MM, MMRV)
  • Vaccines containing polio live virus (OPV) or Vaccines containing polio inactivated virus (e.g., IPV)
  • Hepatitis B vaccines
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccines
  • Varicella vaccines (PLEASE NOTE: The Shingles vaccine is not covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.)
  • Rotavirus vaccines
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines
  • Hepatitis A vaccines
  • Seasonal influenza vaccines
  • Meningococcal vaccines
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines

Seminar and Faculty Supervision

All Clinic students are required to attend a weekly two-hour seminar. This seminar will focus on substantive law topics related to the practice in the NVICP. Clinic faculty provide intensive instruction in legal ethics; written and oral advocacy, client-relations management, appellate technique, and legislative advocacy. In addition, students will learn fundamentals of law practice management including branding/marketing. During the seminar, students participate in exercises designed to develop and refine essential lawyering skills, such as client counseling and interviewing, legal document drafting, client communication, and legal problem solving. Students will meet with their supervisors on a weekly basis outside of the seminar to review and discuss case strategy and client counseling. Supervisors review and provide feedback on all documents and on all client counseling sessions. Students will have short written assignments throughout the fall semester with a longer written assignment in the Spring.

Time Commitment

Over the years, students have found six-credit clinics to be one of the most intense, exciting, and rewarding experiences of their academic careers. The benefits are substantial – by the time students complete the Clinic, they are likely to have gained as much experience as most attorneys in their first year of law practice. Consequently, enrollment in this practice-based Clinic requires that students commit to fulfilling extensive demands on their time. Students will be expected to devote an average of 21 hours per week to their Clinic work. The work will ebb and flow during the semester, requiring substantially more work when preparing for a matter and less work between matters. Personal travel during the semester is sometimes limited and must be pre-approved by Clinic faculty. We ask that students be prepared to be as flexible as possible since much of the work of the Clinic will be deadline driven, and the failure to meet deadlines could be significantly detrimental to a client. Student Application Information Students will be selected based on their potential to provide high quality, client-centered legal services to our client population. A MEDICAL OR SCIENCE BACKGROUND IS NOT NEEDED TO APPLY FOR THE VILC.

Interested students must fill out the Uniform Clinic Application on the Law School's student portal website under "Clinics," where a complete set of application instructions are posted at least a few weeks prior to registration. Students should explain in their applications their interest in vaccine injury litigation and their interest in representing clients from the demographic described above. Students may contact Professor Gentry at any time to discuss the Clinic or to ask specific questions. Permission of the instructor is required prior to registration. If enrolled, students must complete forms to obtain a student practice certification process. Students participating in the Clinic will be required to attend a one-day Bootcamp Training Program held prior to or in the beginning of their Clinic semester. We will hold intensive preparatory sessions to get students up to speed on the substantive law and practical skills needed so they can be prepared to counsel clients as soon as possible.

Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic Intake Schedule

The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic interviews potential clients through phone intake.

For more information, potential clients should call 202.994.8161 and ask for Professor Gentry.

Required Documentation and Information

Potential clients should be prepared to provide the following information over the phone:

  • The date and place of vaccine administration
  • Type of vaccine administered
  • Complete list of medical providers – related and unrelated to the vaccine administration – for the three years prior to the vaccination through the present
  • Whether Medicaid has provided treatment at any time for the vaccine injury

Potential clients should be prepared to provide the following documents at an intake interview:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines
  • Hepatitis A vaccines
  • Seasonal influenza vaccines
  • Meningococcal vaccines
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines
Professional Papers and News Items

“Fixing the Flaws in the Federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program,” Peter H. Meyers, Administrative Law Journal [pdf]

“Vaccines: An Issue of Trust,” Consumer Reports, August 2001, 17- 21 [pdf]

“The Immune Response,” Wendy Davis, ABA Journal, October 2010, 48-54

“Vaccine Injury Clinic Wins Major Victory,” GW Law Magazine, Spring 2003.

“GW Law School’s Vaccine Injury Clinic Wins Multi-Million Dollar Compensation Victory,” Press Release, October 16, 2002.

Watch Professor Meyers briefly explain the current state of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Online Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What costs do I have to pay if I am a client of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic?

A: If you become a client of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic, you do not have to pay attorneys’ fees or costs.

Q: Will my case be made public?

A: The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic operates as any law firm with respect to maintaining confidentiality of our clients. However, the fact that you filed a claim in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program will be a matter of public record. Minor children’s names will be redacted to initials however the parents’ full names will appear in the case name. The ultimate decision of the Court will likely be public, including certain medical information listed in the Decision. Actual medical records and financial evidence however are sealed and unavailable to the public.

Q: Am I suing my doctor or pharmacy?

A: No. You are not suing the administrator or manufacturer of the vaccination. You, as the Petitioner, are filing a claim in a no-fault compensation Program. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is the Respondent and is represented by the US Department of Justice attorneys. A Petition in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is not a lawsuit.

Q: What compensation is available to me as the Petitioner if I win?

A: There are three areas of compensation in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: Out of pocket unreimbursable expenses related to the vaccine injury, actual and/or projected lost earnings, and pain and suffering are the elements of damages for vaccine-related injuries. $250,000 is the death benefit if it can be demonstrated that a death is related to a vaccine-related injury.

If you are an adult that has been injured you are entitled to:

  • Actual out of pocket unreimbursable expenses that result from the vaccine-related injury.
  • Pain & suffering in an amount not to exceed $250,000.00.
  • Actual past and future lost wages.
  • Reimbursement of any Medicaid Lien you have incurred related to your vaccine injury.

If you are the parent of a vaccine injured child the majority of the compensation awarded will be awarded to you "as the guardian of the estate of the minor child." You will likely be required to become the guardian of your child’s estate through local counsel in your local jurisdiction. Your child is entitled to:

  • Actual out of pocket unreimbursable expenses that result from the vaccine-related injury. All previously incurred expenses paid by you will be reimbursed to you directly while the future projected out of pocket expenses will be payable to you as guardian of your child’s estate. Future payments of a substantial amount will likely be payable partially in a lump sum amount and partially in an annuity.
  • Lost wages based on a formula in the statute.
  • Your child is also entitled to pain & suffering in an amount not to exceed $250,000.00. Unfortunately, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program does not compensate parents for their pain & suffering watching their child be injured.
  • Reimbursement of any Medicaid Lien you have incurred related to your child’s vaccine injury.

NOTE: Both vaccine injured adults and the parents of vaccine injured children are entitled to reimbursement of litigation expenses (including the cost of establishing a guardianship) at the conclusion of the case. Litigation expenses are reimbursed to you win or lose so long as the case was filed in good faith and there was a reasonable basis to file.

NOTE: Other than the Medicaid lien noted above, compensation is not subject to any other liens, taxes or attorneys’ fees.

Q: I am already represented in the Vaccine Court but would like to change attorneys. Can the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic take my claim?

A: We are happy to review your filed claim, with your authorization, and determine whether we can represent you.

Q: I filed my own claim in the Vaccine Court without an attorney but would like to get an attorney or have been instructed by the Court to get an attorney. Can the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic take my claim?

A: We are happy to review your filed claim, with your authorization, and determine whether we can represent you.

Q: I would like to sue my doctor or pharmacy for my vaccine injury. Can the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic take my claim?

A: No. The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic solely represents people in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Q: I do not live in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. Can the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic take my claim?

A: Yes. We represent clients from all over the United States. We are happy to review your filed claim, with your authorization, and determine whether we can represent you.

Select Clinic Achievements
  • Clinic students have procured millions of dollars in damages for vaccine injured adults and children.
  • Clinic students have written amicus briefs for the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the US Supreme Court.
  • Clinic students have advised members and committees of Congress and drafted legislation to improve the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that has been introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Law Review Articles & Notes

The following articles have been written by current/former Professors and student-attorneys in the Clinic:

Peter H. Meyers, Fixing the Flaws in the Federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, 63 ADMIN. L. REV. 785, 801 (2011).

Michelle Riestra, Confusion in the Federal Circuit Over the Nature of the Vaccine Act Requires a Congressional Remedy, 24 Fed. Cir. B.J. 515.

Megan Robertson, Molecular Mimicry: Exemplifying the Procedural Insufficiencies of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, 26 Fed. Cir. B.J. 513.

Multimedia

"Covid Shot Stampede Prompts Biden HHS to Retain Injury Payments"
March 15, 2021, Bloomberg Law

"COVID-19 Era Highlights U.S. 'Black Hole' Compensation Fund for Pandemic Vaccine Injuries"
August 25, 2020, Reuters

"People Harmed by Coronavirus Vaccines Will Have Little Recourse"
October 11, 2020, The Wall Street Journal

"Half of All New Federal Vaccine Cases Allege Injury From Shots Given Incorrectly"
May 2, 2018, NBC Washington