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Parents File Birth-Injury Lawsuit Against Genetic Testing Company for Wrong Test Results

Michael Becker

Generally, medical malpractice lawsuits regarding birth defects or abnormalities concern the negligence of a doctor or hospital. However, a couple has recently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in Virginia against a genetic testing lab.

The Virginia couple, prior to conceiving their baby girl, discovered that each were both carriers of a genetic condition known as thalessemia beta trait. The condition causes a host of problems including anemia and requires regular blood transfusions for individuals with the disease. In its most severe form, called Cooley’s anemia, it causes enormous pain to individuals born, as well as a decrease in life expectancy.

The couple discovered they had a one-in-four chance their baby would contract the condition. They decided to have a child, agreeing that they would explore termination options if the fetus had the disease.

The couple conceived and thereafter obtained prenatal genetic testing from a company called Laboratory Corporation (commonly known as LabCorp) to see if the fetus did in fact have the disease. LabCorp informed the couple that their baby did not have the condition and was only a carrier. In 2009, the couple gave birth to a baby girl. However, they discovered that their baby not only had thalessemia beta trait, but also had Colley’s anemia, the most severe form of the condition.

The coupled filed a wrongful birth lawsuit against LabCorp, claiming that the company was negligent in performing the genetic testing.

Limitations on Damages

The court allowed the suit to proceed. However, determining whether there were any limits on the amount of damages the couple could obtain for harm associated with the injury was difficult. Normally in Virginia, a plaintiff is limited to how much money (known as damages) he or she can recover for a medical malpractice claim against a hospital or doctor under the Virginia Medical Malpractice Act-however, LabCorp was neither.

The court determined that the genetic lab was in fact a “healthcare provider” and thus fell within the constraints of the law.

If LabCorp is found negligent, the maximum amount of damages as a result of the injury the couple can receive in Virginia is $2 million; the maximum amount of punitive damages (amounts meant to punish the defendant) they can receive is $250,000.

Many other states like Virginia have passed various laws limiting the amount of damages individuals can collect for malpractice lawsuits.

Limitations on Damages in Ohio

For instance, the law breaks down limits based on certain types of damages available for medical malpractice lawsuits in Ohio. Currently, there are no limits to the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff can obtain in the state. However, non-economic damages in Ohio are limited to $350,000 (or $500,000 for substantial injuries like loss of a limb). Punitive damages are limited in Ohio to three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff.

It remains to be seen whether LabCorp will be found negligent, but one thing is certain: under Virginia law, the plaintiffs are limited in their recovery even if a jury awards them an amount that is above the medical malpractice caps.

Source: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/11/18/41589.htm

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