Awarding extraordinary damages is appropriate and may go ahead for a “wrongful life” case in which a child was born with severe disabilities after her mother was accidentally given a flu shot instead of a birth control injection. The Washington Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous.
The case in question concerns a woman who went for a routine Depo-Provera injection for birth control but was given a flu shot by mistake by an assistant who had been giving flu shots to other patients. The clinic did not let the woman know about the incorrect shot until a few weeks later, at which point she was pregnant, and she gave birth to a girl with epilepsy, vision impairment, and cognitive delays, among other conditions. The girl, now 10, requires major care that her parents have not been able to afford. The damages topped $10 million, and the Justice Department was ordered to pay because the clinic in question was a federally funded organization for low-income patients.
The Justice Department argued to the 9th Circuit Court that the woman was not actively trying to avoid having a child with severe disabilities and that, other than costs associated with the pregnancy itself, this was not the responsibility of the Justice Department. However, the 9th Circuit Court asked for clarification from the Washington Supreme Court, who unanimously agreed that because congenital birth defects are known to happen, then the risk of the child having congenital disabilities was forseeable.
One other task the Washington Supreme Court took care of at the same time was to change older language that had implied people with congenital defects were somehow not “normal” people.
The decision hasn’t actually been affirmed yet, but the family’s lawyer claimed the decision effectively ended the case. The parents work as a janitor and a fast-food worker, and the case has made it extremely difficult for them to give their daughter proper care. Of the $10 million, $7.5 million are marked for care and education while $2.5 million is marked for damages to the parents.