The Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic Continues its Nationwide Advocacy for Clients Injured by Vaccines, Including their First COVID-19 Client

April 26, 2022

Group photo of some students in the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic

Left to Right: Yingwei Chen (Class of ’23), Brianna McGraw (Class of ’22), Jadyn Marks (Class of ’22), Professor Renee Gentry, Joy Li (Class of ’22), Juhyun "Julie" Kim (Class of ’22), Emilee Schipske (Class of ’22), Amanda Szmuc-Heba (Class of ’22), Peter Conway (Class of ’22)

For over two decades GW Law’s Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic (VILC), has remained the only legal clinic in the country that allows student attorneys to experience the practice of law in the unique field of vaccine injury litigation. Led by Professor Renee Gentry, VILC student attorneys participate in appeals and negotiations for damages, fees, and settlements on behalf of clients who are typically children and adults with reactions to routinely administered vaccines.

Vaccine injury claims frequently arise in connection with the vaccines included in the childhood immunization schedule and flu vaccines, but VILC has recently taken its first COVID-19 case. VILC student attorney Julie Kim (Class of ‘22) assisted a young mother of two, named Tabitha, who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, and developed a significant reaction that prevented her from working. Often injured individuals are left to go up against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) on their own and are forced to navigate significant procedural complexities without the support of an attorney. The VILC has helped Tabitha put together her complete medical record along with treating doctors’ opinions to support her application for compensation. 


At the same time, Julie represented the father of a deceased daughter whose claim in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NIVPC) had languished for many years. Julie took over the case while it was in the midst of an appeal, where the client had lost the initial case. A remand was granted in January with a limited 90 day window during which Julie had to prepare and conduct a two-day trial (that occurred over spring break), assist in post hearing briefing and oral arguments. Julie and the VILC were thrilled when the Special Master (the VICP's version of judges) issued an opinion a day early in favor of her client. She was commended by the Special Master presiding over the case for her great work.


The VILC also gives students the unique opportunity to engage in federal lobbying efforts. VILC student attorneys recently participated in a lobbying initiative to modernize the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), established in the mid-1980s. Included in that was a strong push to expand the number of special masters presiding over vaccine injury cases in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The number of special masters statutorily permitted under the NVICP provides more robust relief for litigants is currently 8, which has remained the same since the NVIC’s inception. While these 8 special masters do everything they can to ensure filings are complete they have over 4,000 matters in their pipeline and an increase in reviewers would help move matters forward. Last year, student attorneys contacted various state representatives urging them to support efforts to modernize the NVICP and to include the COVID-19 vaccines in the NVICP through supporting H.R. 3655 (The Vaccine Injury Compensation Modernization Act) and H.R. 3656 (The Vaccine Access Improvement Act) introduced last year with bipartisan support. Through this effort, the VILC students learned the nature and value of systemic advocacy and evolving law that goes beyond individual client representation and broadened their understanding of the range of skills that lawyers can bring to bear on behalf of clients.