Jim Boyle Jun. 13, 2014, 10:59am


A 20-year-old Lehigh Valley woman who walked into a doctor's office for a flu shot and left with a debilitating disease that rendered her paralyzed and unable to feed herself reached an $11.6 million settlement that will be paid over her lifetime to cover her medical expenses.

Sarah Behie received her shot in 2010 as a requirement for work, and a week later began

displaying flu-like symptoms. A couple weeks later, she experienced pain and weakness in her limbs and was eventually diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a neurological condition that can be a rare side effect of the flu vaccine. There is no cure, but rehabilitation programs can help patients eventually recover from even the most severe cases, according to the National Institute of Health.

Her attorneys, Lawrence Cohan and David Carney of Philadelphia, negotiated the settlement with the federal government's National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in Washington, D.C. Created 25 years ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NVICP pays damages to people injured by certain vaccinations, including influenza, MMR and HPV.

The public program is paid for by a 75-cent tax on every vaccination that goes into a compensation fund. As of 2012, more than 14,000 claims have been filed with the NVICP, which has paid $2.44 billion in compensation and attorney fees. Behie's settlement has landed in the top 20 percent of the fund's payments, according to a statement from her attorneys.

The money will go toward Behie's continued treatment at a Lehigh Valley rehab clinic, plus an extra $1 million for her pain and suffering and lost earnings.

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