By Dave Andrusko
Last week, after a seven-week-long trial, a Washington state jury awarded Rhea and Brock Wuth $50 million for the “wrongful birth” of their son, Oliver who suffers from a rare genetic disorder. It is reportedly the largest individual award in Washington state history. The award will go to the parents and to Oliver, who is said to require life-time 24-hour care.
Based on family history, Mr. Wuth knew the couple, who are both teachers, had a 50-50 chance of having a child with that genetic defect or a related translocation. When Rhea Wuth became pregnant, they were told the genetic tests found their unborn child did not have any of these conditions.
But Oliver, now 5 1/2, was born with “unbalanced chromosomal translocation,” a profound mental and physical disability, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In 2010 the couple filed a lawsuit. A King County Superior Court jury awarded the Wuths and Oliver $50 million, to be paid equally by Valley Medical Center in Renton, Washington, and Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp), based in North Carolina.
Relying on court papers, the Post-Intelligencer’s Levi Pulkkinen wrote that “Valley ordered a prenatal test that can be counted on to find this type of chromosomal abnormality only when the lab receives additional information — a ‘road map,’ essentially — showing it where to look for the specific problem. Valley failed to send that information to the lab, and never told Rhea Wuth that without the additional directions, the test results might not answer the crucial question.”
“Although the lab’s own procedures specify it should follow up with a phone call when such information is missing, that call was not made,” the family’s lawyer, Todd Gardner, told Pulkkinen.
“Had the couple known of the genetic defect, they would have ended the pregnancy, according to court filings in the case,” Pulkkinen wrote.