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Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement, Part 2

Please note: When this post first went live, Lilly was still alive and doing OK. Lilly ultimately died from her adverse vaccine reaction (and illness and side-effects of treatment) on December 17, 2013. We spent 23 months and nearly $31,000 fighting to save her. We lost. 

This post is part two (of five) that address my quest to get financial help from the company that manufactured the rabies vaccine Lilly received January 23, 2012. Today’s post covers details on the two legal release clauses that gave me pause.

I am choosing not to post the full versions of the official adverse vaccine reaction financial settlement offer letter and legal release form. I will share, however, excerpts that are instructive to others if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Yesterday, we posted the whole timeline and process from my initial request for financial help to the final adverse vaccine reaction financial settlement offer.

To recap, though, on April 4, 2012, I received an email from the company that made the rabies vaccine Lilly received with a PDF file attached. The PDF included a letter from the company veterinarian in charge of our case, along with a 9-clause legal release form.

Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement Offer Letter

The cover letter included phrases like:

  • “We are sorry that this problem occurred.”
  • “As a gesture of goodwill …”
  • “We appreciate your patience, as this process can take several weeks.”

The company offered me $3,423.75, which is the total of diagnostic costs only (exams, blood work, MRI, spinal tap, spinal fluid lab tests, etc.). The company veterinarian in charge of our case told me on the phone March 14, 2012, that it’s company policy to pay diagnostic – not treatment – costs … which, at the time for us, were close to $8,000.

Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement Offer Legal Release

There were several clauses in the legal release required before receiving the money that I absolutely expected. A couple of the others gave me pause.

1. Claim … “Owner believes that it has experienced certain losses …” (expected)

2. Amount … $3,423.75 (expected)

3. Release … This is essentially where I’m asked to give up all future claims in this matter. In other words, I won’t come back later asking for more money, and I’ll give up all rights to sue them. (expected)

4. No liability … “It is understood and agreed that COMPANY has at all times denied and still denies any liability …” and “Nothing contained herein shall be construed as an admission …” (expected)

5. Non-disclosure … “Owner agrees that the terms of this Release are confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone except counsel, employees of Owner (if any), and their insurers, or as required by law.” (of concern)

6. No defamation … “Owner agrees not to make or assist in the making of disparaging and/or defamatory statements against COMPANY business, personnel, agents, affiliated persons or organizations, or products.” (of concern because it seems to apply to others as well)

7. No influence … Essentially, this clause says that I made my own decision regarding the agreement and that I wasn’t influenced by anything anyone said or did prior to receiving this release. (expected)

8. Governed by … This is where they say which state’s law under which the agreement is interpreted. (expected)

9. Entire agreement … This is a standard thing that says the release is the whole agreement, that it replaces any earlier agreements, etc. (expected)

Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement Offer Questions

I asked the company veterinarian in charge of our case about #5 and #6. I wanted to know how far, exactly, #5 went.

For example, did it mean I simply could not reveal the amount of money? Or, did it mean more than that? I wondered if they could give me a boilerplate statement, like what you hear in the news sometimes. Something such as:

“An out-of-court settlement was reached, the terms of which were not disclosed.”

I wanted to know if I could tell you guys a deal had been reached, as long as I didn’t give details. And, honestly, I would have been OK with that.

But, the answer I got back from the company veterinarian in charge of our case based on what company lawyers told her was that I could no longer speak to anyone (other than our veterinarians) or write about what happened to Lilly ever again.

Nothing. I couldn’t write about her recovery. I couldn’t write about any setbacks.

This clause, I was told, did not simply apply to the settlement and release itself, but to the entire experience.

They knew that I’d already been writing about what happened, but if I signed the agreement, I had to stop.

***

I was also curious about clause #6 because it seemed to hold me legally responsible for things other people may say or do in response to our case. In my mind, that includes things like blog comments, Facebook fan page comments, and Tweets that others might post.

I didn’t get a good answer to my concerns on clause #6, but it didn’t matter since #5, in my mind, was a deal-killer. More on that in the next couple of days.

Considering I’ve spent more than 5 years building a worldwide audience for Champion of My Heart – with an eye on getting a book deal – and considering that the blog is subtitled “a real-time memoir,” NOT being able to write about a major event in Lilly’s life is kind of a big deal.

I believe that signing this release would have killed the blog and a major publishing goal.

For those who don’t know, I’m a professional writer. This is what I do. I don’t just blog to blog. I blog for specific professional reasons.

***

If you are new to our story, it’s important to know that Lilly developed a rare and serious adverse vaccine reaction called meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord) after receiving a rabies vaccine January 23, 2012. You’ll find answers to adverse vaccine reaction frequently asked questions in this earlier 5-part FAQ series. Those answers include how our veterinary neurologist concluded that Lilly’s illness was vaccine induced.

 

***

***

Here are links to all 5 parts of this Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement series of posts:

Part 1 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/09/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-1/

Part 2 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/10/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-2/

Part 3 –https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/11/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-3/

Part 4 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/12/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-4/

Part 5 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/13/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-5/

 

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

lynn marie - July 11, 2012

If at all possible, don’t let anyone keep you from telling Lillys story. We are the only voice for our animals.

Pamela - July 11, 2012

I certainly understand your concerns. Those two clauses have become standard in nearly any contract. I saw very similar language in a contract from a large real estate website who wanted to publish some of my posts for first time home buyers.

In my case, the broad requirement to never criticize the site in any way was a direct hit at my integrity and independence.

Corporate contracts are very one-sided. It’s an example of using a bazooka to kill a fly.
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KB - July 10, 2012

I once reached a legal settlement with a company, and your #5 and 6 were basically in it. The difference was that I’d never told anyone but my family, very close friends, and legal counsel about the whole situation so I wasn’t giving anything up by agreeing. Indeed, I actually liked the idea of never thinking about the whole thing again.

A big difference for you is that the issue is ongoing, and people have been following it from the beginning. How could you possibly keep writing about Lilly without ever mentioning why she’s having health problems now? Impossible.

I’m really surprised that they didn’t let you continue to write about it but *never mention their company name* – it seems that restriction would have filled their needs. They lost, in my opinion, especially since I’ve never seen you write anything that suggests that people should stop vaccinating their dogs.
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Darlene - July 10, 2012

You have the support of many people, including myself. Good for you for really looking into things and not signing! Keep up the good fight! <3
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Hilary - July 10, 2012

I’m glad you didn’t sign, even if it meant you lost money. We would never have known what happened with Lilly otherwise, and it’s a huge educational experience for everyone, including veterinary professionals.

I also didn’t like that they called you or Lilly an “it” and you “experience” (?) instead of “experienced.”

“Owner believes that it has experience certain losses…”

    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    Yes. The “it” is funny, and thanks for pointing out the typo. I fixed it.

Hilda - July 10, 2012

I’ve supported you on this decision from the start, and I continue to do so. Money isn’t everything.

    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    Thanks, Hilda!

Jane Boursaw - July 10, 2012

Yeah, #5 is a deal killer. Good grief.
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    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    I knew you’d understand, Jane.

merr - July 10, 2012

This is really about being able to speak the truth and share experiences. I am following this series very closely, Roxanne. It’s so well done.
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    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    Exactly. Thanks, Merr.

Jackie Bouchard - July 10, 2012

Wow, good thing you looked into the specifics of #5. I wouldn’t have signed it either. But I’m sure many many people do – which is scary because it means we are not hearing about what is going on with people and their pups.
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    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    Oh, I’m sure many people do sign, and not just with pet vaccines, but any drug or vaccine issues on human medicine as well.

Allie - July 10, 2012

Wow — I can see why you wouldn’t sign that. I wouldn’t have if I were in your position, either. Not worth it. The amount seems skimpy to me as well, considering your total costs.

Candy - July 10, 2012

I would not have been able to sign the release either. There must be a reason that they do not want you writing about the reaction.

What a great opportunity it would have been for their company to ask instead if they could start contributing also! It would be great to hear their side; there are ALWAYS two sides to the story!

    Roxanne Hawn - July 10, 2012

    Thanks, Candy. When I last spoke to the company veterinarian in charge of our case, she thanked me for not screaming at her. I’m sure it’s a tough job. I suspect most people aren’t as focused and calm as I tried to be.

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