With the recent breakout of measles at Disneyland, it has come out that Colorado ranks last in the United States in terms of the number of school age children vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (also known as “MMR”).
According to a recent review of Colorado school immunization records, only 81% of children in kindergarten have been immunized for MMR. Mississippi, the state with the highest immunization rates (you read that right: Mississippi!), boasts a 99.7% immunization rate.
In America, Colorado specifically, the notion that parents should have a choice whether or not to immunize their children is still very much alive. In fact, a recent Denver Post review of school immunization records found that “metro-area school districts showed large pockets of parents who receive vaccination exemptions concentrated in the Boulder Valley district.” (Of course, Boulder.)
No matter what your position on the issue is, the one thing not up for debate is that with choice comes responsibility. And when parents refuse to immunize their children, notwithstanding the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting early childhood immunization, they are not only acting irrationally, they are acting anti-socially. And, under Colorado law, they might be subject to a personal injury lawsuit.
So, what is the responsible parent that immunizes her child supposed to do when the parent sitting next to her at the PTA meeting refuses to do the same and later finds out that her immunized child likely caught the measles from the anti-vaxxer’s sick child?
She can’t sue the school. Under Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act, schools will generally be granted immunity from suit, barring certain exceptions.
The more obvious party to sue would be the irresponsible parent. With nearly 1 in 5 Colorado kindergarten children not being immunized, the problem of our herd immunity being compromised by those who know better “because they read it online” is a very serious one.
And this is no trivial problem. For children suffering from pediatric cancer or an auto-immune disease, catching the measles could mean delayed treatment or death.
Under Colorado law, “negligence” is generally defined as a person’s failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Certainly, it’s reasonable to expect parents to vaccinate their children, especially in light of all of the scientific data supporting early childhood vaccination.
Granted, the question of whether you can sue another parent because she refused to vaccinate her child is a complicated one, but it’s not an impossible one.
If a crafty Denver personal injury attorney could prove that the anti-vaxxer parent owed a duty of care to the effected child; that she breached that duty by failing to vaccinate her own child; and that the failure to vaccinate her child caused the other effected child’s illness, that same personal injury lawyer could craft a lawsuit that could survive all the way to jury trial.
One commentator has suggested that anti-vaxxer parents could be held liable for criminally negligent homicide. This seems a bridge too far, but the 19% of anti-vaxxer parents in Colorado should be aware that the other 81% of responsible parents are running low on patience and they are ready to send a clear message. And money talks. Loudly.
Vaccinated children aren’t just catching once-eradicated infectious diseases randomly. And the methods of tracking infectious disease outbreaks have become so crazy-sophisticated that, in today’s legal climate, the defense of “you can’t prove it was my child that gave your child the measles” is becoming less and less persuasive.
Therefore, if you refuse to vaccinate your child, not only are you recklessly compromising our herd immunity, you are running the very real risk of being named a defendant in a Colorado personal injury lawsuit and being made to answer for your actions, or lack thereof.
If you or your child has been exposed to an infectious disease through the negligent or reckless actions of an anti-vaxxer, contact Denver personal injury attorney Jeffry Dougan today at 303-704-1222 and schedule your FREE case evaluation.