Petronelli v. HHS, (Ct. Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. May 12, 2016) (Gowen, SM)
In this GBS case, the Court accepted the testimony of Petitioner’s vocational expert that a former corporate attorney was unable to return to work. The Court found Respondent’s expert unreliable, as he “mischaracterized the record.” Although Petitioner was not working at the time of the vaccine due to family obligations, the Court found that she likely would have re-entered the work force at the twenty-fifth percentile or earnings or $75,000. This number would have increased to $125,000, the median salary, over the next five years, and continued through her 13-year work life expectancy. The work life expectancy was calculated by determining the number of years Petitioner would have worked until age 64.5. (Ed. note: this is contrary to Respondent’s formula for wage calculations, which essentially utilize a total work life expectancy of 30 years in most cases based on older case law).
The differing methodologies to calculate wage growth and discount rate are discussed in great detail in the opinion. Ultimately the court applied a 3.7% rate for corporate attorney wage growth and a 1% discount rate. Fringe benefits of 10% were also awarded.
The Court awarded the entire award in a lump sum, per Petitioner’s request, which the Court found “reasonable as petitioner is an adult woman with professional experience as a corporate attorney, and thus reasonably capable of making an informed decision.”
Finally, the Court awarded past pain and suffering of $250,000. Other notable items were an award of funds for massage and acupuncture – (Ed. Note – these are items not always agreed to by HHS).
*HHS will not utilize the methodology from this case in litigative risk settlement because they do not agree with the holding.