A complaint which lacks allegations of fact to show that a legal duty of care was owed is fatally defective. The existence of such a duty is properly challenged by demurrer and is a question of law for the court.
The mother of plaintiff, a minor child, was involved in a car accident with defendant's employee. She brought suit for injuries and settled that action. Two years later she became pregnant and gave birth to plaintiff, who suffered from injuries relating to premature birth. Plaintiff brought a complaint for preconception negligence. Defendant demurred on the ground that no legal duty of care existed because claims for preconception negligence involve a special "physician-patient" relationship which gives rise to a duty to the fetus. In the absence of such a relationship, a legal duty had never been found under California law. The trial court agreed, finding that recognition of plaintiff's claim would constitute an unwarranted extension of the duty of care.
Is the plaintiff entitled to damages for the defendant’s alleged preconception negligence?
The Court held that a motorist could not reasonably foresee that his negligent conduct might injure a child subsequently conceived by a woman several years after a car accident. Unlike a medical professional's conduct, which is directly related to whether a child is conceived or born, such conception or birth was not a reasonably foreseeable result of the operation of a car.