Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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Court Upholds $50 Million Wrongful Birth Verdict

Posted Saturday, June 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

You’ve heard of a wrongful death lawsuit, but did you know that you can also sue for wrongful birth? It’s a delicate and personal issue, but unfortunately one that many families face. It involves a duty of care owed to parents and their children, who deserve to know the truth about the medical risks involved in new life.

What Is a “Wrongful Birth”?

The Washington Supreme Court first recognized that “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” are legitimate causes of action in 1983.

Leonard Harbeson served in the air force, and during his tour of duty in 1970 his wife Jean (who was pregnant at the time) was diagnosed with epilepsy. She was prescribed an anticonvulsant drug from doctors at the air force base. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 1971.

Jean was eventually prescribed different drugs for her seizures. In 1972 she and Leonard talked about having another baby but were worried about the drug’s’ effect on an unborn child. Doctors told them about a few risks, and they decided to have more children. They had two daughters, born in 1974 and 1975. After their daughters were born Jean and Leonard learned of other possible side effects that their doctors didn’t warn them about – some of which afflicted their daughters. They ultimately sued, and the court held that the parents could sue for wrongful birth.

Moreover, the court found that the daughters could sue for wrongful life. According to the court, “wrongful life is the child’s equivalent of the parents’ wrongful birth action.” The doctor’s’ duty to warn of the side effects extended to the conceived children.

Recent Wrongful Birth Lawsuit

A Washington state appeals court recently upheld a jury verdict awarding $50 million to a King County couple whose son was born with severe birth defects.

Rhea and Brock Wuth were worried that their baby might be born with a rare genetic abnormality that Brock carried. He was told he had a 50 percent chance of passing the gene onto a child. So when Rhea was pregnant they asked that their doctors perform tests to determine whether their baby would be healthy. They did not want a severely disabled child and were planning to terminate the pregnancy if the baby would be born with this genetic problem. The tests came back negative, but when Oliver Wuth was born in 2008, it was clear that something was wrong.

Oliver was born with tiny hands and feet (but long fingers), legs that would not straighten, a head that was turned and bent, and an underdeveloped brain. He will require extensive medical care for the rest of his life. His parents sued for wrongful birth in 2010, claiming that the doctors failed to conduct proper genetic tests. The defendants argued that the $50 million verdict was excessive, but the appeals court upheld it.

Contact Us Today

If you find yourself in a similar situation as the Wuth family, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you decide your best course of action.