Fast Track Settlement Procedure

Upon recommendation of the parties, special masters may refer appropriate cases to an expedited settlement track. The purpose of the expedited settlement track is to identify cases that are amenable to early resolution through settlement and minimize the expenditure of unnecessary litigation costs in those cases. As settlement is a voluntary process, a referral to the expedited settlement track will not occur in the absence of agreement by both parties.

Appropriate cases for the expedited settlement track may include (but are not necessarily limited to) cases in which:

  • the petition provides a thorough and concise summary of the allegations upon which the claim is based;

  • the petition is filed with a complete set of medical records (including birth and developmental records for infants, and at least three years of pre-vaccination records for adolescents and adults) and the required affidavits;

  • the injury alleged is clearly supported by the medical records;

  • there is a substantial body of case law likely to be influential to resolution of the case, or readily available medical literature or other reliable scientific evidence supporting a causal relationship between the vaccine and the alleged injury; and,

  • damages are relatively limited or are otherwise easy to ascertain (i.e., substantiated by documentation, do not require expert analysis).

If a petitioner believes his or her case is appropriate for the expedited settlement track, the petitioner should indicate this belief either in the petition or in a status report filed prior to the initial Rule 4(b) conference.
If the government agrees with the petitioner that the case is appropriate for the expedited settlement track, the government will indicate its belief either during the initial Rule 4(b) status conference or in a status report filed within 30 days of the Rule 4(b) conference.

If the petitioner has not indicated a position prior to the initial Rule 4(b) status conference yet the government nevertheless believes the case is appropriate for the expedited settlement track, the government may confer with counsel for the petitioner (or with petitioner if pro se), and if the petitioner agrees, the parties will notify the special master of their recommendation either during the initial Rule 4(b) status conference or in a joint status report filed within 30 days of the Rule 4(b) conference.

If upon the recommendation of both parties the special master determines that the case is appropriate for the expedited settlement track, the special master will issue an Order:

  • suspending all further deadlines to allow the parties a period of time in which to engage in settlement negotiations;

  • directing the parties to file a status report within 90 days of the date of the Order informing the special master of their progress toward reaching an agreement to settle the case; and,

  • further directing the parties to file additional status reports every 30 days thereafter, up to 180 days from the date of the Order.

At any time during this 180-day period the parties may request ADR. If at any point during the 180-day period it becomes evident that the case is not amenable to an expedited settlement, the parties may request that the case be taken off the expedited settlement track and proceed along a regular litigation track. If after the 180-day period the parties have failed to settle the case, the case automatically will be moved back to the regular litigation track, and the special master will consult with the parties to establish a schedule for going forward.

Failure to settle the case while in the expedited settlement track will not preclude the parties from continuing to engage in settlement discussions while the case proceeds along the regular litigation track. There may well be cases that are appropriate for expeditious settlement outside the expedited settlement track. Special masters are eager to facilitate all settlement efforts.