On December 10, 2013, a King County, Washington State medical malpractice jury awarded $50 million to the parents of a child who was born with a rare genetic defect resulting in the now five-and-a-half-year-old child having an IQ between 50 and 70. The child’s physical disabilities prevent him from walking up stairs or running, and his vocabulary is limited to only a few dozen words that only his parents can understand. The child will need continuous care for the rest of his life.
The parents’ medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a medical center and an independent lab alleged that prenatal genetic testing was improperly analyzed, thereby resulting in the patents not being aware of their baby’s severe chromosomal abnormality early in the pregnancy, at which time they could have aborted the fetus. The parents became aware of the genetic defect only after their child was born, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding termination of the pregnancy.
The Underlying Facts
Before the wife became pregnant, the couple was aware that a severely disabled cousin on the husband’s side of the family had been diagnosed as having a specific genetic defect that would mean that the couple had a one-in-two chance of having a baby with the same or similar genetic defect. The couple therefore obtained genetic testing and counseling in light of the prospect of having a baby with a severe genetic defect. They carefully followed the recommendations of the genetic counseling that they received.
When the wife became pregnant, the couple had prenatal genetic testing done on their unborn baby early in the pregnancy to determine if the baby had the genetic defect. The genetic testing was done by the local medical center and the test was sent out to a national laboratory to analyze the results. Unbeknownst to the couple, the medical center was required to provide the lab with detailed information regarding the specific chromosome translocation (defect) that was being tested for, but failed to do so. Additionally, the lab failed to follow its own procedures by not contacting the medical center to obtain the necessary information after it had not been provided. As a result, the baby’s genetic defect was not found and the couple was told that the genetic testing was normal.
When the baby was born on July 12, 2008, it was apparent to the parents, who are both teachers, that their child had profound mental and physical disabilities. Had the genetic testing been properly performed and analyzed and the parents timely advised regarding the unborn baby’s severe genetic abnormality, they would had terminated the pregnancy at that time and they would not have incurred past and future medical expenses and 24/7 care expenses associated with raising such a child, as alleged in their medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Washington State medical malpractice jury determined that the medical center and the lab were both negligent and they were equally responsible to the parents for their medical negligence. Even after the jury awarded the family $50 million in compensatory damages, which is the largest individual jury verdict in Washington State, both defendants continue to allege that they did nothing wrong.
If you or your family suffered serious injuries or other harms as a result of medical malpractice in Washington State or in another state in the U.S., you should promptly consult with a Washington State medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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