Wrongful Life Attorney in San Diego
Millions Recovered for Victims of Genetic Testing Errors in CA
In California, wrongful life lawsuits are a type of medical malpractice claim brought by infants born with genetic disabilities. Typically, these cases are centered on negligent genetic counseling and testing.
As difficult claims that entail complex legal and medical standards and a tremendous amount of emotions, wrongful life lawsuits are not handled by every injury lawyer. However, with experienced and resourceful counsel, they can be effectively litigated and won.
At The McClellan Law Firm, we have what it takes to help families in the fight for justice. Firm Founder Craig R. McClellan is one of the nation’s leading plaintiffs’ trail attorneys and has successfully litigated wrongful life and wrongful birth actions involving failures of genetic testing, recovering millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of children and families.
- More than $1 billion in compensation recovered for clients
- Over 140 verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million each
- Legal victories against some of the largest corporations in the world
- Proven results in wrongful life and birth injury actions
Discuss your case confidentially with our team. Our wrongful life lawyers are based in San Diego and represent clients across California. Call (619) 215-1488 or contact us online for a FREE case review.
What is a Wrongful Life Lawsuit?
“Claims for ‘wrongful life’ are essentially actions for malpractice based on negligent genetic counseling and testing.” (Gami v. Mullikin Medical Center (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 870, 883 [22 Cal.Rptr.2d 819].)
California is one of a few states to allow a child to bring a wrongful life lawsuit. This civil cause of action stems from Turpin v. Sortini, a landmark CA Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that hearing specialists and other providers were liable for failing to inform the parents of a hereditary condition that would have resulted in their decision to not have a second child.
Though these cases involve many complex issues of law, they are premised generally on claims that a medical provider’s negligence deprived the parents of making an informed decision as to conceive or continue a pregnancy, and therefore caused the child’s parents to incur extraordinary expenses.
Wrongful life cases revolve around failures of genetic counseling and testing, which may include:
- Failures to order / perform tests or advise parents of the availability of reliable testing
- Testing errors and lab mistakes resulting in inaccurate results
- Misinterpretation of test results or recordkeeping errors
- Failing to diagnose genetic mutations or abnormalities in fetus
- Failures to identify hereditary conditions or traits in older children and / or parents
Many genetic disabilities can be identified through ultrasound, amniocentesis, placental biopsy, fetal-blood sampling, and other prenatal screening techniques. When providers commit errors or fail to adequately advise parents of risks and options, children may be born with significant disabilities. Some examples include:
- Down’s syndrome
- Sickle-cell anemia
- Spina bifida
- Canavan disease
- Cystic fibrosis
To prevail in a wrongful life lawsuit, the child’s genetic impairment must be a physical or mental disability that results in extraordinary expenses, such as the costs of specialized care, education, and medical equipment. California courts have established that a child’s birth alone does not warrant awards for special damages.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Life Claim?
Wrongful life claims are highly fact specific, which means the path to proving liability will depend on the specific facts of a case. However, there are general elements plaintiffs will need to prove.
According to the California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 513), plaintiffs must establish the following in a wrongful life claim:
The defendant medical provider was negligent
- Because they failed to warn of the risk that the child would be born with a disability; or
- Because they failed to perform or advise of appropriate tests that would more likely than not have disclosed the risk of a genetic disability.
- The child was born with a genetic disability
- Had the parents known of the risk of disability, that would not have conceived or carried to term; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial cause of the parents having to pay extraordinary expenses for the care of their child.
Because wrongful life claims must prove that a genetic disability could and should have been identified had a medical professional upheld the standard of care, it is often necessary to consult with medical experts who can provide testimony about the applicable standard, the degree of reliability of available testing, and other medical and scientific elements of the claim. In testing cases specifically, it must also be shown that there was at least a 50% chance that a test would disclose an impairment.
At The McClellan Law Firm, we work with a network of qualified specialists and medical experts who help us in these areas.
What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life?
In California, wrongful birth and wrongful life are two separate though related causes of action.
- Wrongful birth actions are brought by the parents of a child born with a genetic disorder for damages incurred by the parents because of the birth of a disabled child (i.e. costs of pregnancy and delivery, mental health expenses, and emotional distress).
- Wrongful life actions are brought by the child for their own damages.
Because both actions can involve a genetic counselor’s failure to inform parents of a detectable hereditary disability, they are often joined as part of a case. However, only wrongful birth claims (meaning those brought by parents) can be brought in situations where victims allege that a medical professional negligently performed a sterilization or abortion procedure (CACI 511).
Compensation for Wrongful Life Actions
Wrongful life actions are unique in that California courts do not award general damages, which includes non-economic damages like pain and suffering, or damages for loss of earning capacity.
Instead, plaintiffs in wrongful life cases are awarded special damages to account for the economic losses related to the hereditary disability. This can include:
- Medical expenses and future medical care, medication, and therapy
- Specialized non-medical care, including education and training
- Expenses for special accommodations and medical equipment
Because genetic disabilities can come with a lifetime of costs, our team at The McClellan Law Firm works with medical and economic experts to understand how a child’s impairment is likely to impact their life, the treatment and care they’re likely to require, and the projected costs they’re likely to incur. This evidence is essential to helping clients pursue the maximum compensation possible.
Some examples of our wrongful life recoveries:
- $9 million wrongful life recovery over failure of genetic testing
- $2.625 million recovery in wrongful life action involving child born without limbs
- $1 million wrongful life settlement involving genetic testing failure
Speak with a San Diego Wrongful Life Lawyer: (619) 215-1488
If you have questions about wrongful life lawsuits and your legal options for pursuing justice, The McClellan Law Firm is here to help. Our San Diego attorneys serve clients across Southern California and the state and have amassed a record of proven results in complex claims like these. Though we are backed by big resources and results, we remain a boutique practice that prioritizes personal attention.
Discuss your potential wrongful life claim during a FREE and confidential consultation. Call (619) 215-1488 to speak with a lawyer.