Tort Law

$21 M for Wrongful Birth Needs Fla. OK

A Florida couple has won a $21 million jury award over a misdiagnosis of their first child’s rare genetic defect that led them, they say, to have another child two years ago with the same debilitating disease.

But Daniel and Amara Estrada won’t be able to collect the award unless the state legislature approves it, because the genetic specialist who misdiagnosed their baby works at a Tampa Bay area state-university hospital protected by sovereign immunity, reports the Associated Press. Negligence claims against state agencies are limited by Florida law to $200,000.

The couple persuaded a jury to award the so-called wrongful birth damages because they said they would not have had a second child if Dr. Boris Kousseff had told them it could suffer from the same disease with which their first son, born in 2002, was eventually diagnosed. Called Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, it prevents the boy’s body from correctly producing or synthesizing cholesterol, creating profound defects. Both of the couple’s boys are unable to communicate and need constant care, according to AP.

“This is a severely impaired child who will need a great deal of care for the rest of his life,” said Christian Searcy, one of the attorneys who tried the case, of the couple’s youngest child. The Estradas had sought damages for the cost of his lifetime care, saying they would have aborted the pregnancy had they known he had the syndrome.

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