Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic

Established in 1994, the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic is the only one of its kind in the country. Students in the clinic represent young children and adults who are seeking compensation for vaccine-related injuries and death. They appear in trial and appellate proceedings before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Students also have the opportunity to engage in law reform activities, including drafting and filing in appellate courts amici curiae briefs on important vaccine issues.

The clinic has obtained compensation 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 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, making it easier for vaccine-injured persons to obtain compensation in court.

Students in the clinic have the opportunity to become involved in other law reform activities in the vaccine injury area.

Additional Information

Professorial Lecturer in Law and Co-Director, Renée J. Gentry

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

As a named partner with Shoemaker, Gentry & Knickelbein in Vienna, VA, 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 U.S. 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.

Visiting Professor of Law and Co-Director, Clifford J. Shoemaker 

Clifford Shoemaker has served as the Co-Director of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic since 2007. Mr. Shoemaker graduated from Drake University in 1973 with a JD and an MBA He was a member of the Drake Law Review. After graduation, Mr. Shoemaker entered the Marine Corps Judge Advocate Division, where his last assignment was director of the legal assistance program for the entire Marine Corps. During that time, he obtained his LLM in taxation at The George Washington University Law School by attending evening classes. Since leaving active duty in 1977, Mr. Shoemaker has been in private practice, primarily representing children and adults who have been injured by vaccines. During the Swine Flu Litigation in the late 1970s, Mr. Shoemaker served on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in multi‚Äźdistrict litigation, earning a special bonus for his work from the Honorable Judge Gerhard Gesell, who handled the MDL proceedings.

He tried numerous cases involving injuries, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, following swine flu vaccines in Federal District Courts all over the country. He also successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that military members were entitled to bring claims against the government under the National Swine Flu Act. After that, he was involved in other vaccine litigation and Dalkon Shield litigation. He was involved in the establishment of the no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) in the late 1980s, and he has been involved in representing clients in that program ever since.

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 the Vaccine Act’s statute of limitations.

Students have testified in support of 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.

The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic is a two-semester clinic offered for 4–6 credits each semester. Students are qualified as student-attorneys, authorized to practice before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, under the supervision of the Co-Directors of the clinic. Students are divided into teams (for instance, 4 teams of 3 students each), and each team is assigned 5-6 cases throughout the year to work on. An effort is made to assure that each time has responsibility for cases at all of the various stages of litigation – intake (working with clients), collecting medical records, working with expert witnesses, filing claims, drafting pleadings, conducting status conferences with the Special Masters handling the claims and the DOJ attorneys representing HHS (the respondent for the claims), negotiating settlements, conducting ADR hearings, conducting hearings to determine entitlement (medical causation), processing appeals, working with life care planners, economists, etc. on damages, keeping track of time and expenses, and filing applications for fees and costs.,

The objectives of this Clinic include teaching litigation skills, such as interviewing and counseling, investigation and discovery, developing a case theory, researching medical issues and working with expert witnesses, researching and drafting written pleadings, oral advocacy, and negotiations. The clinic also focuses on professional responsibility, including determining a lawyer’s role, defining and meeting responsibilities, working collaboratively with other professionals (peers, supervisors, opposing counsel and the court personnel), and resolving ethical issues. Students will also examine and critique the operation of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Students devote approximately 16–24 hours per week to both the seminar and case work components of this Clinic, depending on the number of credits for which the student is registered. The hours will vary significantly during the semester, with substantially more time required immediately prior to a trial in which the student is involved, and less time required during other parts of the semester.

Every year, the Clinics hold an Open House where faculty answer questions about their respective clinics.  Interested students may contact Professor Gentry or Professor Shoemaker to discuss the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic and ask specific questions.

A complete set of application instructions are posted approximately one month prior to the registration period for the following semester. For more information, please login to the Portal.

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 Professor Shoemaker  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.

“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.