Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Failed sterilization leads to wrongful pregnancy lawsuit (2 of 2)

We are currently discussing the controversial and rare legal topic of wrongful birth lawsuits. As we began discussing in the last post, an Illinois woman had a tubal ligation in order to not have any more children after her son was born with sickle cell anemia and she and her husband are carriers of the genetic condition.

The couple sued the reproductive clinic and the doctor who performed the procedure after the woman became pregnant less than a year later, and then gave birth to a daughter who also suffers from sickle cell anemia.

In the lawsuit, the couple asked for extraordinary damages based on the expected costs of providing care to their daughter.

The defendant clinic and doctor argued that they were not responsible for the child’s condition and that extraordinary damages were not applicable because they were not responsible for the genetic condition suffered by the child.

After a motion to dismiss was denied, the case was sent to a panel of appellate judges to consider the latter issue.

The panel of judges ruled that extraordinary damages were possible because the genetic abnormality was “a foreseeable consequence of a negligently performed sterilization procedure” and the parents had told the doctor that the reason for the sterilization was to avoid having another child who suffered from the condition.  

They also disagreed with attorneys for the doctor and rehabilitative clinic who argued “that expanding the scope of damages in wrongful pregnancy cases would open the proverbial floodgates.”  However, the decision made clear that it only applies to the specific case at hand.

The medical malpractice case will now be considered by a circuit court.

One important thing to keep in mind is that this case took place in Illinois state court and therefore does not hold precedence in the state of Pennsylvania.

However, it is still a case worth discussing as negligently performed sterilization procedures can happen anywhere and other courts could reach similar findings.

Source: The Cook County Record, “Panel: parents in wrongful pregnancy suit may seek extraordinary expenses,” Kenneth Lowe, March 3, 2014

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