Jury Awards Almost $3 Million to Parents of Child Born with Down Syndrome
A jury in Oregon awarded nearly $3 million to the parents of a child born with Down syndrome after prenatal testing showed no genetic indicators of the condition. The plaintiffs in Levy v. Legacy Health System sought compensation for the considerably greater expense associated with raising a child with this serious medical condition. This type of lawsuit is often referred to as “wrongful birth,” and some commentators choose to focus on the implication, which is not always justified, that the pregnancies at the center of such cases are essentially unwanted. This view misses the important point, though, that doctors and other medical professionals owe a duty to provide accurate information to their patients to enable them to make informed decisions and preparations. If a doctor negligently provides inaccurate information, parents are not adequately informed or prepared. They may face substantially greater costs than anticipated, which might be proximately caused by the doctor’s negligence.
During her pregnancy, plaintiff Deborah Levy underwent a chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which tests for genetic abnormalities present in one or both parents. The test reportedly showed no abnormalities, leading the Levys to expect a healthy child. When their daughter was born in June 2007, however, blood tests indicated that she had Down syndrome, a genetic birth defect that generally results in learning disabilities. Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have distinct physical features, and the condition has been linked to long-term health complications, including heart defects, gastrointestinal problems, and risks of physical injury. Down syndrome is also associated with significant costs, such as medical expenses and specialized assistance.
The plaintiffs sued the hospital, alleging that hospital staff was negligent
in performing the CVS test. They claimed that the doctor removed maternal
tissue rather than fetal tissue for the test, and that both the doctor
and the laboratory technicians failed to realize that they had taken an
incorrect sample before running the test. They also alleged that the doctor
failed to warn them of the possibility of Down syndrome despite two ultrasounds
that allegedly revealed some traits of the condition.
Medical malpractice, like other negligence claims, requires proof that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant breached the duty, that this breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and that the plaintiff has suffered measurable damages. The plaintiffs essentially argued that the defendants breached their standard of care by failing to administer the CVS test correctly and failing to make an accurate diagnosis, and that these breaches were the proximate cause of the unexpectedly high cost of raising their child and the child’s lifelong additional needs and expenses.
The lawsuit was highly controversial, but the plaintiffs maintained that their goal was to cover the added expenses of raising a child with the particular needs associated with Down syndrome. They sought compensation for these costs by claiming them as damages in the lawsuit. After a ten-day trial, a jury awarded the plaintiffs $2.9 million in damages on March 9, 2012.
The birth injury lawyers at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt have over 100 years of collective experience dealing representing the rights of people in Maryland and Washington, D.C. who have suffered injuries because of medical negligence or misdiagnosis. To speak to a knowledgeable advocate about your birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, please contact us today online, at (410) 567-0800 for a free and confidential consultation.