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

State Court of Appeals rules on birth defects, gas fumes

A Court of Appeals in our neighboring state of New York has issued a ruling in a case alleging that a woman gave birth to a child with severe birth defects because she was exposed to gasoline vapors. The woman's 1989 BMW allegedly had a fuel hose that was defective. The 2008 lawsuit claimed that the woman was exposed to toxic gas vapors for 6,500 miles while she was pregnant.

An epidemiologist and an occupational medicine expert testified to the effects of the vapors on the woman's unborn baby; however, the court ruled that their conclusions were no supported by scientific and medical literature. Instead the experts stated that the birth injuries were caused by the vapors based on reports from the woman's grandmother and mother. The two women said that the smell of gasoline caused them dizziness, headaches, throat irritation and nausea.

The court said that the experts might have used an analysis of the "odor threshold," which has been acceptable to use in other cases. That analysis would show how much of a substance is needed in order for a person to smell it. The court said in its ruling that since the experts didn't have any scientific study or article that said using this type of methodology was reliable.

Birth injuries result from a variety of causes, including a doctor's negligence. In cases where a doctor's failure to act or a misdiagnosis led to the birth defects, the mother may seek compensation from the at-fault doctor, medical staff or hospital. A lawyer can help you learn more about how to pursue such compensation.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, "N.Y. Top Court Nixes Proof Linking Gas Fumes, Birth Defects," Bruce Kaufman, Feb. 11, 2016

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