Two Cases Where Having An Unplanned Baby Resulted In Successful Lawsuits

There are two ways that the birth of a baby can be the result of negligence on the part of a physician and cause in serious problems for the parents.  The conceiving and delivering  of the babies in these instances can become the basis of a malpractice or personal injury lawsuit.  

Wrongful Conception/Pregnancy that Produces an Unplanned Child

The first actionable situation is when a woman has an unplanned pregnancy due to a  prescribed birth control method that failed or a botched sterilization procedure (either tubal ligation for the mother, or vasectomy for the father) or they had a failed abortion.

In this type of case, a plaintiff may receive compensatory damages for:

  • The pain and suffering associated with the pregnancy and delivery of an unplanned child,
  • The medical costs of the birth and recovery,
  • Lost wages,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Possible damages for "loss of consortium" (the normal benefits of a couple's relationship).

Even though a couple may have a legitimate negligence case when an unplanned baby was born healthy, many people in this situation have difficulties pursuing it because they love the child and hate to put a dollar amount on their existence.

However, what about the issues couples have to face when they have a genetic predisposition to produce a child who would be disabled or have a serious medical condition, and one of them decides to undergo a permanent sterilization procedure to avoid this?

In one case, the parents, Cynthia and John Williams, sued the doctor because the woman had a failed tubal ligation which resulted in pregnancy and the eventual birth of their fourth child who has sickle cell anemia. The mother and father found out they both have the sickle cell anemia gene. They already had a child with the illness and one that was determined to be a carrier.

This case  (Williams vs. Rosner) was initially successful for the normal compensation of wrongful pregnancy and in appeals court, it was also decided that the parents could also collect compensation for the extraordinary medical expenses of carring for their daughter.

Wrongful Birth That Produces an Unhealthy Infant

The main reason this type of suit is brought is that a physician does not detect a birth defect of the unborn child when this could have been found using normal practices of prenatal care, and/or they ignore the any signs of trouble. If the doctor fails to inform the parents that the fetus has a birth defect or serious medical condition, the parents may be able to claim damages to help with the extra expenses that comes with raising the child.  They could also successfully receive the type of damages that wrongful conception is responsible for. 

In one case reported to The Daily Beast, a man was found to be a carrier for a very rare disorder that causes cognitive defects and maladaptive emotional functioning. He and his wife were already caring for his sister who has this condition. They then found out they were going to have a baby girl.

When the child was six months old, it became apparent that the baby had signs and symptoms of the disorder. The couple ended up suing because the woman's physician failed to consult a geneticist to read the amniocentesis results; instead he told them that the baby would only be a carrier and she would not develop the condition. The couple felt cheated out of being able to make an informed decision about having the baby.

The woman's doctor admitted his mistake, and agreed to negotiate a settlement in this case.

Legal Advice

So to recap: if you decide to undergo tubal litigation or vasectomy or have a botched abortion, and then find out you are carrying a baby you may have a wrongful pregnancy case. If you weren't told of a serious medical condition of the fetus, and the time passes when you could have made a decision about terminating the pregnancy, then you would have a wrongful birth case. Contact an accident attorney for more information.

If you are involved in a similar situation as one of these, you will need to consult a personal injury attorney for advice and legal support.