SEATTLE — A jury has awarded $50 million to a Washington couple who filed a wrongful birth suit after their son was born with mental and physical disabilities.
Brock and Rhea Wuth, both school teachers, had been advised that they had a 50-50 chance of conceiving a child with a genetic defect. They sought genetic counseling in the matter as Brock’s cousin was born with a chromosomal disorder.
After Rhea became pregnant, Valley Medical Center in Renton sent tests to LabCorp in North Carolina to determine whether the child had any abnormalities. As the tests came back normal, the family was assured that the baby was fine.
However, when Rhea gave birth in July 2008, it was discovered that the infant had “unbalanced chromosomal translocation.” The Wuths then filed suit against Valley Medical Center and LabCorp in 2010, advising that had they known that the child—a boy, who they named Oliver—had defects, they would have sought an abortion.
According to the Times-News, attorney Todd Gardner cited the birth of the baby and the care that he now requires—likely for the rest of his life—as damages that required compensation. He asserted that Valley Medical Center had failed to inform LabCorp of all of the pertinent information, including that Brock Wuth carried a genetic abnormality from his family history. Gardner also blamed LabCorp for not following up with the Medical Center when it did not provide details on where to look for the possible defect.
“Valley messed it up at the beginning; Lab Corp. should have got it. They both failed,” he told local television station KOMO. “You have a disaster.”
Earlier this month, a jury selected by the King County Superior Court agreed with Gardner and the Wuths, and awarded the Wuth’s $50 million—$25 million to the couple and $25 million to Oliver.
Valley Medical Center then issued a statement apologizing for the “tragedy” that had occurred.
“We are very sorry for the tragedy the Wuth family has suffered,” it wrote. “We continue to believe that the Valley Medical Center staff members acted appropriately.”
LabCorp said that it is considering an appeal.
“We believe the facts and the law do not support the verdict,” the company stated. “LabCorp acted properly and diligently in performing the test that was ordered by the physician. We will consider all available options, including post-trial motions and appeal, if necessary.”
But some are expressing sadness over the wrongful birth suit being filed in the first place and the impact that it could one day have on the child.
“I was given the test, not to be able to abort, but to prepare if there was disability,” one commenter named Joan wrote. “My tests also were fine and I gave birth to a very sick little boy. I still love him no matter what. He’s 17 now and the light of my life regardless of disability.”
“Rejection by the ones who are supposed to love you above all others is a terrible thing to live with, and baby Oliver will continue to sense it as he grows older,” another named Judy stated. “These parents need the Lord, and I’m putting baby Oliver on my permanent prayer list. I predict he’ll do great things for the Lord one day.”
Oliver is now 5 1/2. He is obtaining special education as he speaks few words and is not yet able to climb the stairs or run.