(CNN)The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Wednesday that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link.
The EU’s highest court said that if the development of a disease is timely to the person’s receiving a vaccine, if the person was previously health with a lack of history of the disease in their family and if a significant number of disease cases are reported among people receiving a certain vaccine, this may serve as enough proof.
The ruling stemmed from the case of a French man known as J.W. who was vaccinated against hepatitis B in 1998 and developed multiple sclerosis a year later. Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. The disease scars nerve tissue and causes a range of symptoms, from vision problems to paralysis. J.W. died in 2011.
In 2006, J.W. sued pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which produced the vaccine, blaming it for his decline in health.
The case was brought before the Court of Appeal in France, which ruled that there was no scientific consensus supporting a causal link and no evidence of a causal link between the hepatitis B vaccine and the man’s multiple sclerosis, therefore dismissing the action.
This judgment was appealed and brought to the French Court of Cessation, which took it to the European Court of Justice.
The Court of Justice said that “specific and consistent evidence” relating to timeliness, a prior healthy status, lack of family history and multiple cases may prove to be enough, according to a statement. J.W.’s case referred to the first three criteria…