New Jersey’s largest wrongful birth verdict: failure to disclose an unborn infant’s catastrophic genetic defect.
This case, the largest medical malpractice verdict of its kind in the state of New Jersey, concerned a failure to disclose an unborn infant’s serious genetic defect. It was an important case for many reasons. After becoming pregnant, the new mom, a carrier of a muscle-wasting disease known as myotubular myopathy (MTM) sought genetic testing. When the amniotic fluid was sent to be tested, the wrong box was checked, indicating it was for an amniocentesis rather than a test for MTM, nor was a request written. The doctor failed to request a test for MTM as part of the lab instructions, though he did indicate a family history of MTM. In addition, when the doctor asked the lab how much fluid, he was never informed that the lab didn’t do that kind of testing. Hence, fault was placed on the doctor, the testing lab and the lab director who signed the report.
The child was born with irreparable damage: around-the-clock care, a respirator and feeding tube, and the inability to sit up easily. The child will never be able to walk, and has been given a life expectancy of 30 years. As in complex cases, discovery includes taking depositions from all experts. The primary issue being contested was how long the child would live and the costs associated with his care. The mother was awarded $15 million for future medical expenses and $13 million for anguish. (Attorney Paul O’Connor handled the case.)