After being declared
eliminated from the United States in 2000, measles is once again on the rise. The
reason? Many parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. It
is being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
that there is an outbreak of over 100 cases of measles in 14 different
states. And, due to the outrageously
infectious nature of measles, we are likely to see more cases in the near future.
This stunning news begs the question: should parents who choose not to
vaccinate their children be held liable for negligence? At least one news
commentator thinks that parents who choose not to vaccinate should be sued for negligence.
Florida Negligence Law
Under Florida law there are four parts to a claim for
negligence. The first part of a negligence claim is the duty we each have of reasonable
care. As a general rule, the law regulates how we act within our communities,
and each of us has a duty to act reasonably. The second part of a negligence
claim happens when a person fails to live up to that duty and acts unreasonably.
But, simply acting unreasonably is not enough. It is when a person’s
unreasonable acts cause damages that the third and fourth parts of a negligence
claim are met. The law requires negligent actors to pay for the harm they
cause, thereby doing justice to victims.
Negligence and Measles
When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons,
a case for negligence can be made. As a community, it takes nearly 95%
of people to be vaccinated for us to be immune from the
disease. When people choose not to vaccinate, that percentage necessarily drops,
thereby increasing the chances of spreading the disease. Certain groups
of people, like babies too young for the vaccination, are left susceptible
to the disease and are more likely to get measles because parents chose
not to vaccinate their children.
It can easily be argued that each of us who can, owe a duty to be vaccinated
so we don’t contract the disease and spread it to those who can’t
be vaccinated. If that duty is breached for non-medical reasons, and the
disease is spread negligently, an innocently infected person should be
compensated for any resulting pain and suffering. That is the very definition
of negligence law. Of course, there are other considerations that go into
each negligence case. For example, proving who the actual cause of the
disease was, or showing that there is not a good reason for not being
This conversation illustrates why it is so important to have a professional
attorney with experience manage issues of negligence. It is even more
important when a new issue like the measles outbreak is involved. If parents
continue to choose not to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons,
then it will become even more important that qualified professionals with
the necessary experience protect the rights of our community.
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