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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

Swine flu vaccine victim gets $3.9 million verdict

Citizens' Voice - Wilkes-Barre, PA

Award is largest in nation

By Jerry O'Brien

A thirty-nine-year-old Pittston woman confined to a wheel chair following her inoculation with swine influenza vaccine in 1976 has been awarded nearly $4 million from the United States of America - the largest swine flu verdict in the nation.

Federal Judge Richard P. Conoboy handed down 104-page decision Monday awarding $3,971,470 to Lucy McDonald of 167 Johnson Street.

The previous highest verdict was reported to be $2 million awarded to a woman physician in Tennessee.

The judge heard testimony in the case for two and one half weeks in December without a jury.

Mrs. McDonald was represented by attorney Joseph Quinn, of Wilkes-Barre, who presented three neurologist, one specialist in nerve conduction and electromyographic studies, two urologist, a psychiatrist, a registered nurse, an economist, and a pathologist. Mrs. McDonald also testified herself.

The central issue in the case was the diagnose of Mrs. McDonald neurological disorder. She contended she is suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) caused by the swine flu inoculation November 14th, 1976. The government took the position that her illness is not GBS, but transverse myelitis (TM), a disease of the spinal cord, which it claimed has no casual relationship to the swine flu vaccination.

Judge Conoboy wrote that the medical witnesses for Mrs. McDonald have impressive credentials and have not only treated numerous GBS patients and written widely on the subject, but one of them also has been afflicted with GBS and as a result has become deeply involved in the studies of this syndrome and its many symptoms.

"They were firm in their opinions that GBS can affect and include the nervous system, and because this plaintiff has so many of the symptoms normally associated to GBS, that it would be highly inappropriate to rule out that diagnose simply because of the presence of central nervous system features," Judge stated.

Judge Conoboy noted that on the other hand the defense medical experts vacillated somewhat, including one doctor who changed his opinion as to causation after he had been supplied by the government with a study of a small number of TM patients in one area of the United States, a study which most of the other doctors testified would be of questionable relevance to the case because of the different criteria used in selecting the patients used in the study.

To rely on or to credit the testimony of the defense medical experts, the judge stated, "one would have to ignore many of the symptoms which have bound in the plaintiffs disease - racked body." (Mrs. McDonald can't walk and has no bowel or bladder control). The judge continued that, "Mrs. McDonald produced in court an overwhelming volume of creditable evidence from witnesses with impeccable credentials, that she does indeed have GBS and that it is a direct result of the vaccine which she received as part of the governments immunization program in 1976."

Judge Conoboy awarded damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost earning, as well as future loses, architectural changes to the home to accommodate Mrs. McDonald and for pain and suffering.

A summary of the damages follows: past medical expenses, $56,645; future medical expenses including medical treatment, $197,749; nursing care, $2,228,096; miscellaneous equipment, $257,670; architectural changes, $77,000; lost earnings (past and future based on working to age 65), $554,310; and pain and suffering, $600,000.

In conclusion, Judge Conoboy wrote: "the court is not unaware of the unusual length of this opinion. We are mindful too of the exceptional size of the award of damages. But we are equally in cognizance, and deeply impressed, with the enormous impact of the plaintiff extensive injuries. No smaller award could adequately compensate her since her total life, as well as her body, has been drastically and permanently crippled. We have tried, then, in fairness to both parties, to be thorough and complete in layout are reasoning and analysis of the testimony and the evidence presented in this case."

Attorney Quinn noted when the administrative claim was filed in November of 1978 Mrs. McDonald asked for $1 million. The government denied the claim in March of 1980 and the law suit was filed that September. The lawyers said the judge, in his award, had to find there were changing circumstances and facts not known at the time the claim was filed to the extent of injuries and disability.

The award was described by Attorney Quinn as, "satisfying and thrilling" since it was a difficult case.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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