Case 3364/2010

STS 3364/2010
Download Judgment: English Spanish

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Plaintiff went to the hospital to obtain an amniocentesis, which reported a karyotype of 46, XY normal. Upon plaintiff’s son’s birth, 6 months later, doctors suspected the child suffered from Down syndrome. Testing of the child’s blood revealed a karyotype of 47 XY +21. Rechecking the original amniotic fluid also found an abnormality. The error in initial testing was attributed to testing a sample from another patient.

The plaintiff brought suit against the Health Service of the Ministry of Health, and the High Court of Valencian Community found in favor of the plaintiff and her husband, granting them one-time payments and 1,500 euros per month for the length of the child’s life. The Ministry appealed to the instant Court.

The Court upheld the monthly payments but made the hospital and the university holding the genetics lab jointly and severally liable for the payments.

The Court rejected the argument that there is no incongruity in the relief sought and granted as the amount of money being granted “meets the needs of care and attention” for the child with Down syndrome. The variation was only in the “mode or manner” of how the funds were available to the family. In contrast, there was no evidence that this form of payment was more harmful to the appellant than a one-time payment.

The Court rejected the characterization of the injury as only one of “moral character.” The Court declared that this issue had been previously decided in opposition to appellants’ contentions. The Court recognized the general principle from that holding that “besides the moral damage ‘comes also the compensation for purely economic injury consisting of the significantly higher cost of raising a child with Down syndrome.’” In general, the Court noted that the cost of childcare is not awarded, but “when the circumstances are not normal implying a much higher economic burden to the ordinary, this Chamber considers that it can be injury.” The Court thus found a causal connection between the moral harm and the economic damages.

The Court found that the contract between the university that held the genetics lab and the hospital contained a clause finding them jointly responsible for liability. The Court declared that both the university and the Ministry were jointly and severally liable for the 1,500 euro per month payment provision but left all other aspects of the judgment unchanged.

“De un lado, porque la naturaleza o género del medio de reparación y el perjuicio que se repara no varían, pues tanto lo pedido como lo otorgado consisten en la entrega de una cantidad de dinero con la que sufragar las necesidades de cuidado y atención de quien padece la enfermedad, variando sólo el modo o manera en que esa cantidad se entrega o pone a disposición de quien ha de necesitarla. De otro, porque nada se alega acerca de que esa variación constituya o de lugar para la parte recurrente a un gravamen o coste de mayor entidad o más perjudicial que el que derivaría de la entrega en una sola vez del capital pretendido por los padres para aquellos fines.” (p. 3)

“On the one hand, it is not a defect of incongruity because the nature or genre of the means of repair and the damage that is repaired do not vary, since both, the amount requested and the one given, are finally an amount of money that meets the needs of care and attention of the person living with the disease. It only varies in mode or manner in which that amount is delivered or available to the person in need. On the other, because nothing is claimed about that variation constituting or leading, for the appellant, a charge or a cost of greater importance or more harmful than that derived from the delivery of all the capital at once sought by parents for those ends.” (p. 3)

“Y concluimos afirmando que además del daño moral "procede también la indemnización por la lesión puramente económica consistente en el notablemente mayor coste de criar a una hija con síndrome de Down. Ocuparse de una hija con tal patología comporta, como es obvio, gastos extraordinarios, que encajan perfectamente en la idea expuesta por la arriba citada sentencia de 28 de septiembre de 2000 cuando hablaba de desatender ciertos fines ineludibles o muy relevantes mediante la desviación para la atención al embarazo y al parto y a la manutención del hijo de recursos en principio no previstos para dichas finalidades.” (p. 3)

“We concluded that besides the moral damage "comes also the compensation for purely economic injury consisting of the significantly higher cost of raising a child with Down syndrome. Taking care of a daughter with such pathology involves, of course, extraordinary expenses, that perfectly fit into the idea expressed by the above-mentioned judgment of September 28, 2000, when it speaks about neglecting some unavoidable or very important purposes by the deviation of the resources to the attention to pregnancy and childbirth and child support, in theory not provided for such purposes.” (p. 3)

En otras palabras, los gastos derivados de la crianza de los hijos no constituyen un daño en circunstancias normales; pero, cuando las circunstancias se separan de lo normal implicando una carga económica muy superior a la ordinaria, esta Sala entiende que puede haber daño y proceder la indemnización". Y que " los gastos que la recurrida ha debido y deberá afrontar en cuanto madre de una hija con el síndrome de Down no pueden considerarse lógicamente desvinculados de la imposibilidad, causada por la Administración sanitaria, de interrumpir legalmente su embarazo. Existe nexo causal entre la omisión de la prueba de detección prenatal del síndrome de Down y el daño, tanto moral como económico, experimentado por la recurrida". (pp. 3-4)

“In other words, the costs of raising children are not an injury under normal circumstances, but when the circumstances are not normal implying a much higher economic burden to the ordinary, this Chamber considers that it can be injury and so, the indemnification proceeds. And that "the costs that the plaintiff must meet and shall meet as mother of a daughter with Down syndrome can not be considered disconnected from the inability, caused by the health authorities, to legally terminate her pregnancy. A causal link exists between omission of the prenatal screening test of the Down syndrome and the damages, both moral and economic, experienced by the plaintiff".” (p. 4)

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