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"Harm" implies the existence of loss or detriment in fact, which may not necessarily be the invasion of a legally protected interest. The most usual form of injury is the infliction of some harm; but there may be an injury although no harm is done. Acts or conditions which affect the personal tastes, likes, or dislikes of a person may be either beneficial to him, or detrimental, or of no consequence, the same as acts which affect physical things. In so far as these acts or conditions are detrimental to him, he suffers harm. Thus harm is the detriment or loss to a person which occurs by virtue of, or as a result of, some alteration or change in his person, or in physical things, and also the detriment resulting to him from acts or conditions which impair his physical, emotional, or aesthetic well-being, his pecuniary advantage, his intangible rights, his reputation, or his other legally recognized interests.
Joseph Mendez was conceived after his mother, Maria Mendez, underwent a tubal ligation, which allegedly was negligently performed by a physician employee of the defendant, Lovelace Medical Center. The physician found and ligated only one of Maria's two fallopian tubes and then failed to inform her of the unsuccessful outcome of the operation. She thus remained fertile, took no birth-control precautions, and conceived Joseph in due course. He was born as a normal, healthy baby.
May the parents of a normal, healthy baby conceived as a result of a negligently performed, unsuccessful sterilization operation recover the costs of raising the child from birth to adulthood?
The court held that the Mendezes' interest in the financial security of their family was a legally protected interest which was invaded by Lovelace's negligent failure properly to perform Maria's sterilization operation (if proved at trial), and that this invasion was an injury entitling them to recover damages in the form of the reasonable expenses to raise Joseph to maturity.