Dismissal Of Wrongful Birth Case Highlights Importance Of Choosing The Right Legal Theory

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Dismissal Of Wrongful Birth Case Highlights Importance Of Choosing The Right Legal Theory

11 September 2015
 Categories: Law, Blog

In 2014, a white woman sued a sperm bank for providing her with the wrong donor sperm. Specifically, she had requested the sperm of a white male but was given a donation provided by a black male, resulting in the birth of a mixed-race child. She filed a claim of wrongful birth and breach of warranty against the clinic, but her case was dismissed because the facts didn't fit the requirements of the legal theories she was using. Here's more information about this turn of events.

Wrongful Birth Claim Applies to Specific Circumstances

On its face, a wrongful birth claim would appear to be the right legal cause to sue under. The woman had requested sperm from donor of a specific race but, through the clinic's error, she was given donor sperm from a man of a different race which resulted in the birth of a child of the "wrong" race.

However, a wrongful birth claim covers a specific type of medical malpractice. It allows parents of children with birth defects to recover compensation from doctors who fail to sufficiently notify or warn them of said abnormalities so they can make an informed decision about whether to continue the pregnancies. The law doesn't cover the birth of healthy children with unwanted traits.

Even similar causes of action—wrongful life and wrongful conception—would not apply in this type of situation. Wrongful life is the same as wrongful birth except it is the child who sues the doctor for damages he or she suffers related to being born with birth defects. Wrongful conception is a legal claim used when a doctor negligently performs a sterilization procedure (e.g. tubal ligation or vasectomy) that fails and results in the birth of a child.

What is the Correct Legal Theory for This Type of Situation?

The use of donor eggs and sperm has increased significantly over the years. Invariably, mistakes occur. The victims of these mistakes do have a right to collect compensation for damages or losses they sustain. However, determining the right legal theory to sue under can be challenging and depends a lot on the circumstances of the case.

For example, if the mistake was accidental, then possibly the best legal cause to use would be negligence. All you would need to prove is that the responsible party failed to exercise the due care required by the situation (e.g. verifying the correct sperm was selected and used). On the other hand, if the mistake was intentional (someone purposefully sent the wrong sperm), then fraud or intentional infliction of emotional distress may be more appropriate.

To avoid having your case thrown out of court because the facts don't fit the legal claim you're using, it's best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can help guide you in the right direction. Visit The Law Offices of Muro & Muro for more information.