Shalala v. Whitecotton, 514 U.S. 268, 6 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 268 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

The Court of Appeals went on to say that the Secretary had failed to rebut this prima facie case because she had not shown that claimant's encephalopathy was caused by "factors unrelated to the administration of the vaccine," 42 U. S. C. 300aa-13(a)(1)(B). The Court of Appeals relied on the provision that a "facto[r] unrelated" cannot include an "idiopathic" condition, 300aa-13(a)(2)(A), which the court read to mean that even when the Secretary can point to a specific factor, unrelated to the vaccine, as the source of a claimant's injury, she does not defeat a prima facie case when the cause of the identified factor is itself unknown. Taking the Secretary to have relied on claimant's microcephaly as the unrelated factor (or as associated with it), the court ruled the Secretary's evidence insufficient on the ground that the cause of microcephaly is unknown. 17 F. 3d, at 377-378.*

We granted certiorari to address the Court of Appeals's construction of the Act's requirements for making and rebutting a prima facie case. 513 U. S. 959 (1994). Because we hold that the court erroneously construed the provisions defining a prima facie case under the Act, we reverse without reaching the adequacy of the Secretary's rebuttal.


The Court of Appeals declared that nowhere does the Act "expressly state" that a claimant relying on the table to establish a prima facie case for compensation must show "that the child sustained no injury prior to administration of the vaccine," that is, that the first symptom of the injury

*The Court of Appeals's language can also be read as casting doubt on the Special Master's conclusion that claimant's microcephaly evidenced a pre-existing encephalopathy. We express no view as to the validity of that conclusion.

The Secretary has recently issued new regulations that may affect the Court of Appeals's definition of an idiopathic condition in future cases. These regulations apply only to petitions for compensation filed after March 10, 1995, and accordingly have no application to the present case. 60 Fed. Reg. 7678-7696 (1995).


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