The question of whether MMR vaccines cause autism has been addressed already on Skeptics.SE, and then again when new documents came to light.

This question is not about rehashing those facts, but is about a July 2013 Whiteout Press report claiming the US Courts have confirmed that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

They cite a June 2013 report from the Liberty Beacon who link to a court ruling.

In a recently published December 13, 2012 vaccine court ruling, hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to Ryan Mojabi, whose parents described how “MMR vaccinations,” caused a “severe and debilitating injury to his brain, diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”

(I haven't read the ruling; I am too ignorant of the US vaccine court to understand the context.)

I am not asking if MMR causes autism - we've covered that. I am asking if this ruling in the US vaccine courts have "confirmed" that it does.

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    I think it's worth noting that a finding of fact in a civil tort trial is not the product of scientific inquiry but of the rules of procedure for the given jurisdiction. One may note that 1.) findings of fact relate only to the case before the Court; 2.) findings of fact generally derive from expert testimony, which needn't be by the best experts in the world; and 3.) the evidence presented is being interpreted by non-experts, be they judges or juries. Which is all to say that one should be cautious of using Court cases as a measure of our understanding of the broader reality in which we live. Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 14:41
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    Steven Novella recent weighed in on a related case.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 3:33
  • 1
    This reminds me of the Indiana Pi Bill, which almost saw Pi = 3.2 by law.
    – Brendon
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 22:43

1 Answer 1


No with regards to the specific ruling cited, and no in the broader sense since the U.S. Courts have previously ruled against the link.

The legalese can be tough to parse but the ruling is pretty clear that the respondent, in this case the Secretary of Health and Human Services agreed with the petitioners' claim that Ryan Mojabi suffered encephalitis as a result of the MMR vaccination:

On June 9, 2011, respondent filed a supplemental report pursuant to Vaccine Rule 4(c) stating it was respondent’s view that Ryan suffered a Table injury under the Vaccine Act – namely, an encephalitis within five to fifteen days following receipt of the December 19, 2003 MMR vaccine, see 42 C.F.R. § 100.3(a)(III)(B), and that this case is appropriate for compensation under the term s of the Vaccine Program.

It looks like the petitioners originally claimed that an Autism Spectrum Disorder was caused by the vaccination,

Petitioners alleged that as a result of “all the vaccinations administered to [Ryan] from March 25, 2003, through February 22, 2005, and more specifically, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccinations administered to him on December 19, 2003 and May 10, 2004,” Ryan suffered “a severe and debilitating injury to his brain, described as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”

But the specific injury was encephalopathy,

Petitioners specifically asserted that Ryan “suffered a Vaccine Table Injury, namely, an encephalopathy” as a result of his receipt of the MMR vaccination on December 19, 2003.

With regards to the broader question, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) has a vaccine court that requires that the petitioners demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the vaccine caused an injury that they would not have otherwise suffered. In the event that a causal connection is found, a no-fault ruling allows for compensation to cover medical expenses, legal expenses, loss of future earning capability, etc.

In response to all of the autism claims, an Omnibus Autism Proceeding (Wikipedia summary) took place that ruled against a link between the MMR vaccination and autism. All of the relevant rulings can be found at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims - Autism Decisions and Background Information. In the first omnibus ruling the special master make the following ruling:

After considering the record as a whole, I hold that petitioners have failed to establish by preponderant evidence that Colten’s condition was caused or significantly aggravated by a vaccine or any component thereof. The evidence presented was both voluminous and extraordinarily complex. After careful consideration of all of the evidence, it was abundantly clear that petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive. Respondent’s experts were far more qualified, better supported by the weight of scientific research and authority, and simply more persuasive on nearly every point in contention. Because of pervasive quality control problems at a now-defunct laboratory that tested a key piece of evidence, petitioners could not reliably demonstrate the presence of a persistent measles virus in Colten’s central nervous system. Petitioners failed to establish that measles virus can cause autism or that it did so in Colten. They failed to demonstrate that amount of ethylmercury in TCVs causes immune system suppression or dysregulation. They failed to show that Colten’s immune system was dysregulated. Although Colten’s condition markedly improved between his diagnosis and the hearing, the experimental treatments he received cannot be logically or scientifically linked to the theories of causation. Given the advice that petitioners received from a treating physician, Colten’s parents brought this action in good faith and upon a reasonable basis. However, they have failed to demonstrate vaccine causation of Colten’s condition by a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, I deny their petition for compensation.

The ruling of which was upheld upon review.

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    note that encephalitis isn't autism, nor that concluding that someone got a disease within x days after being vaccinated doesn't mean the vaccine caused the disease. I'm not familiar with either the vaccine or the disease, maybe the compensation was rewarded for the vaccine not working for example (and even then, it's not a scientifically or medically valid decision, merely legalese nonsense).
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 5:25
  • @jwenting I covered the standards of evidence required in the paragraph about the NVICP. Generally the vaccine court requires that there is demonstrable scientific evidence for the claims to be awarded.
    – rjzii
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 13:27
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    @jwenting According to the FDA, encephalitis is actually a known (but rare) adverse reaction seen after receiving the MMR vaccine (though it not clear that the vaccine virus itself is the cause): fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/…
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 20:47
  • 2
    Congratulations, Rob. You were cited on the Internet.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 11:51
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    At the time of writing, 10,000 views of this answer, but only 10 upvotes. Give this guy some love!
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 23:30

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