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Plaintiff Sues for Erroneous Medical Advice, Court Finds for Defendant on Appeal in NY Appellate Court


In June 1969, a woman gave birth to a baby but the baby survived only for five hours. The baby had polycystic kidney disease. This is a genetic and hereditary disease but the couple did not know this at the time of the birth of their first baby. After their first baby was born and soon after the baby died, the woman and her husband spoke to the obstetricians who took care of her during her first pregnancy.

A New York Injury Lawyer said the couple asked the obstetricians plainly if the woman gets pregnant again, would their baby also have the same disease that their first baby died of. The doctors plainly told the couple that the chance that their next baby would have the same polycystic kidney disease was practically zero. The couple relied on this advice by the obstetricians and so the woman conceived soon after.

When the woman gave birth in July 1970, their baby girl was delivered by the same obstetricians. The baby girl also had polycystic kidney disease. The second baby, however, survived for two years suffering much pain before finally succumbing to death from the same polycystic disease.

After their baby died, the couple sued the obstetricians for medical malpractice, stating that their medical advice was erroneous and this caused not only the wrongful life of their daughter but also her painful existence for two years and her death. They also sued to reimburse their medical expenses. They also sued the obstetricians for the personal pain and suffering suffered by the couple.

The couple alleged that the obstetricians were negligent in giving erroneous medical advice. They should have known that polycystic kidney disease was genetic, hereditary and fatal. The couple alleged that they were reckless and heedless; totally disregarding the medical knowledge they should have known.

The trial court dismissed the causes of action for the couple’s emotional distress and for fraud. But the trial court specifically preserved the causes of action for the wrongful life of the child , the reimbursement of medical expenses and the medical malpractice of the obstetricians that was given to the parents.

The couple did not appeal the dismissal of these causes of action. It was the obstetricians who appealed: they appealed the preservation by the trial court of the other causes of action in the complaint especially those for the pain and suffering of the parents consequent to the wrong medical advice given by the obstetricians to them.

The Supreme Court upheld the preservation by the trial court of these causes of action.

The Court noted that during the deliberations of the Court on this case, some who were in the majority were afraid that upholding the preservation of these causes of action would impose on obstetricians the additional duty of being genetic counselors or the duty to insure that every newborn delivered by them would be healthy. A Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer said they were also afraid that the concept of damages will be extended beyond manageable limits.

The Court however ruled that when the negligence of the obstetrician is directly responsible for the physical injury to another, there is no doubt but that the person who was injured can recover damages not only for the physical injury sustained but also for the mental and emotional suffering they suffered consequent to the wrongful act.

Here, the obstetricians were negligent. They gave incorrect and inaccurate medical advice. They gave the advice precipitately without first checking actual medical facts so that they can advice the parents. The woman was the patient of these obstetricians and they owed her a direct duty to make sure that they gave her correct medical information. The woman relied upon the advice given to her by the obstetricians.

Thus, it was established that the obstetricians owed a duty to the mother; they were negligent in performing the duty; the mother suffered injury from the negligence of the obstetricians. A Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said the emotional and mental distress that comes with the injury she suffered must be compensated for in damages.

A New York City Medical Malpractice Attorney must prove negligence on the part of the doctor being sued. In the alternative, a NYC Medical Malpractice lawyer must prove that the doctor being sued deviated from accepted medical practice. A NY Medical Malpractice lawyer must also prove that the deviation from accepted medical practice directly caused the injury sustained.

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