$14 Million Verdict for Wrongful Birth / Failure to Test for Thalassemia

The firm represented a family of Indian decent in this wrongful birth action. Early in the pregnancy the treating obstetrician ran a blood test on the mother, which showed an abnormal hemoglobin marker and other abnormalities. The expecting mother was incorrectly diagnosed as anemic and later gave birth to a son.

Shortly after the child’s birth, he was diagnosed as having Thalassemia major, a genetic blood disorder. His condition necessitates that he undergo blood transfusions every couple of weeks, as well as chelation therapy and other treatment. He also already had a painful bone marrow transplant, which required months of hospitalization, and failed to improve his condition. A life care plan projected $5,600,000 of extraordinary lifetime care costs, which are the measure of the child’s damages for wrongful birth in New Jersey.

The couple and their child sued the obstetrician, alleging she should have performed a hemoglobin electrophoresis test to rule out the Thalassemia blood disorder in light of the prior abnormal blood test results and the couple’s Indian heritage. That would have led to testing the father, and after those blood tests it would have been revealed that both parents were carriers of the Thalassemia gene. Furthermore, amniocentesis would have revealed that their son was destined to be born with the dreaded disease. The plaintiffs asserted that according to the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, patients of Mediterranean descent require this special workup (hemoglobin electrophoresis) because they are at higher risk for genetic blood disorders. Had the disorder been diagnosed at an early stage of the pregnancy, the couple could have chosen to terminate the pregnancy.

The jury rejected the defense that the parents who had fertility treatment to get pregnant, would not have terminated the pregnancy even if a diagnosis had been made. They awarded $6,000,000 for lifetime care costs and $4,000,000 to each parent for their lifetime emotional distress, for a gross verdict of $14,000,000.