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Baby's birth defect leads to $50M jury award

Dec. 11, 2013 at 3:33 PM   |   Comments

SEATTLE, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A Washington state jury has awarded a couple $50 million, the state's largest ever individual award, for a wrongful birth case, lawyers said.

Brock and Rhea Wuth of Burien, Wash., sued Valley Medical Center and the North Carolina company LabCorp after a genetic test meant to determine whether a child Wuth was carrying had a rare genetic disorder failed to do so.

The Seattle Times said the couple knew based on their family medical history they were at a 50-50 chance of having children suffering from a rare but debilitating genetic disorder called "unbalanced chromosome translocation."

Knowing they were at risk, Rhea Wuth went to Valley to have her fetus tested. The hospital then sent the blood sample to LabCorp. The problem happened when the hospital failed to include crucial data about where the lab was supposed to look for a chromosomal defect -- essentially a genetic roadmap for where the defect would occur if at all.

Lab employees never followed up to ask for the crucial information, missed the translocation and came back with a negative result for the disorder.

When the couple's child was born July 12, 2008, he was found to suffer from the disorder. The child, Oliver, now requires around-the-clock care. He has an IQ of between 50 and 70, cannot run or walk up stairs and can't speak beyond two dozen or so words his parents can understand.

The Wuths' lawyer, Todd Gardner, said the couple was "incredibly responsible" in seeking out the testing and had they been given the proper test results they would have terminated the pregnancy.

"There was nothing else they could have done," Gardner said.

The $50 million awarded Tuesday by a King County Superior Court jury is the largest ever individual award in state history, said Jury Verdicts Northwest, a group that tracks jury awards in the state. It is split evenly between the hospital and the laboratory.

Both organizations denied responsibility for the mistake and LabCorp said it is considering appealing the jury's award.

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