A King County jury awarded a $50 million verdict on December 10 in favor of two parents who filed a medical negligence lawsuit against a Seattle-area hospital and a publicly-traded medical testing firm on the grounds that both parties failed to detect a severe genetic disorder in a fetus.
According to court documents, the jury found that Valley Medical Center – a public hospital located in Kent that is operated by the University of Washington – and Laboratory Corporation of America – a publicly traded medical testing firm, also known as LabCorp – were jointly negligent when they failed to identify that a married couple’s infant child was affected by a rare and disabling medical condition.
Court documents indicate that the father of the child was a known carrier of the genetic disorder, and the couple sought to have the diagnostic testing done once they discovered that they were expecting a child. The couple claimed that they initially sought the diagnostic testing to help them decide whether or not to go through with the pregnancy, as they knew how difficult the infant’s life would be if it were diagnosed with the medical condition.
Both Valley Medical Center and LabCorp allegedly told the couple that the child did not have the medical disorder in question, giving the parents the belief that their child would be able to live a healthy life. However, they discovered shortly after the child was born that he did in fact have the genetic disorder, which would require round-the-clock long-term care for him for the remainder of his life.
Companies’ Liability in ‘Wrongful Birth’ Lawsuit
Legal documents indicate that hospital staff at Valley Medical Center failed to specify the correct test that needed to be conducted in order to determine whether the child had the disorder, and that LabCorp failed to communicate with the hospital in order to avoid conducting the wrong test.
Greg Colburn, an attorney at Davis Law Group, P.S., says that this lapse in communication is just one example of the many budget-related issues that have negatively impacted the quality of care that patients receive in U.S. hospitals.
“Because the family was requesting the diagnostic testing for this specific genetic disorder, it is difficult to understand how the process could have gone awry,” explained Colburn, who has represented numerous personal injury victims in his time as a plaintiff’s attorney. “The couple clearly placed a great deal of trust in the testing process, and they were led to believe that their child would not be affected by the medical condition.”
Complications in Medical Malpractice Cases
This particular case has garnered a lot of attention, in part because it is the largest individual award that has ever been awarded in the history of Washington State, according to Jury Verdicts Northwest.
Due to a variety of factors, medical malpractice cases are often extremely complicated and difficult for plaintiffs to be successful in. This particular case is no exception to that rule, as there was likely a great deal of evidence that needed to be presented to convince the jury that the damages were a result of the negligence of both parties.
In the end, LabCorp issued a statement insisting that the company was not guilty of any wrongdoing and that they planned to take the necessary steps – possibly including an official appeal of the verdict – in order to clear themselves of responsibility. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the case progresses, as both companies will likely fight the verdict vigorously.