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Sol Peter Ajalat — the first U.S. attorney to sue Merck for fraudulently marketing its Gardasil human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine — died June 28.
According to family and friends, Sol — who would have turned 91 on July 12 — was practicing law right up until his death.
Throughout a legal career spanning more than 60 years, Sol worked in virtually every area of law. In addition to cases of bodily injury due to accident and medical malpractice, Sol represented vaccine-injured plaintiffs in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
According to Michael Baum, senior partner with Wisner Baum, Sol was a “meticulous and indefatigable researcher” who dedicated the latter years of his life to exposing Gardasil dangers, digging up and analyzing Gardasil studies with a fine-tooth comb.
Sol uncovered the complex tricks that led to under-reporting of debilitating Gardasil neurological injuries and the over-reporting of Gardasil’s efficacy against HPV-induced cell abnormalities.
Not shy about not knowing, Sol found and befriended the most knowledgeable scientists in the world to teach him how these injuries occurred. He learned the immune system’s intricacies and how it reacts to injected antigens and adjuvants — which in Gardasil’s case, resulted in over-stimulation of some patients’ immune systems and excess exposure to neurotoxins.
The more Sol learned, Baum said, the more dogged he got about teaching and spreading the word about Gardasil’s dangers. He ardently advocated for his clients, especially championing Jennifer Robi’s Gardasil-induced neurological injuries in the courts, to the manufacturer’s lawyers and to the team of colleagues he persuaded to follow his lead.
“Sol was a pioneer in this field,” Baum told The Defender, “bringing Jennifer’s case in a civil court in Los Angeles, where no-one until Sol had successfully been able to file and maintain an injected medication case.”
“That trail he blazed was followed by my firm and several others of the very top pharmaceutical firms in the world, leading to hundreds of cases like Jennifer’s filed all across the country,” Baum added.
At Sol’s insistence, Merck was forced to produce over 25 million pages of internal documents about Gardasil — 16 cases have been selected to proceed to trial as the lead exemplar cases in federal court.
“Sol will always be my hero,” Robi said. “He was my voice when I was most vulnerable and a champion for me and my family. While our hearts are broken by his passing, I seek comfort in knowing that he will continue to be a guiding light throughout the entirety of my life.”
“Sol will forever be a model of truth, integrity and honor in my eyes,” Robi added. “I am blessed to have had him in my life.”
Sol Peter Ajalat was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 12, 1932. The second of five children born to Peter and Tesbina, who immigrated from Jordan and owned a small wholesale and retail clothing store.
In 1945, the family moved west to Los Angeles. Sol attended Fairfax High School where he was a standout student and a star football player, earning the nickname “The Mad Arab.” After graduating high school in 1951, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for three years as an instructor in Emergency Medical Care at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. He earned a degree in public health administration from UCLA in 1958. He continued on at UCLA, attending law school and earning his Juris Doctor in 1962.
According to his family, Sol was “extremely involved” in everything around him — his Church community, his law community, and his Toluca Lake home community. “Community was his passion — serving others and bringing others together for the greater good, this is what he strived to do his entire life.”
Upon his passing, the family has heard countless stories of how Sol helped those he encountered along his life’s path in one way or another. He has been described as always providing encouragement and wisdom, delivering both gently and lovingly and with a beautiful smile.
“Above and beyond being one of Sol’s attentive students, I considered Sol a friend and ally in a cause that he fought all the way to the end,” Baum said. “He even attended document review zoom meetings from bed after his unfortunate fall and subsequent hospitalization.”
“I will miss his dry sense of humor, his inimitable laugh, the joy he echoed when we found hot documents and his dedication to righting the Gardasil wrong. He left a big team in his wake, thanks to his persistence and fundamental integrity.
“We are all better for having shared Sol’s shoulder against the wheel of justice for Gardasil injured individuals.”