Procanik v. Cillo

97 N.J. 339, 478 A.2d 755 (1984)

 

RULE:

An infant plaintiff may recover as special damages the extraordinary medical expenses attributable to his affliction, but that he may not recover general damages for emotional distress or for an impaired childhood.

FACTS:

Infant plaintiff alleged defendant doctors negligently failed to diagnose that infant plaintiff's mother had contracted German measles in the first trimester of pregnancy. As a result, infant plaintiff was born with congenital rubella syndrome. Infant plaintiff filed a wrongful life suit that was dismissed for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted.

ISSUE:

Can an infant plaintiff recover damages in a wrongful birth claim?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

The court held that a child or his parents could recover special damages for extraordinary medical expenses incurred during infancy and that the child could recover those expenses during his majority as they were reasonably certain, readily calculable, and of a kind daily determined by judges and juries. However, the court declined to recognize infant plaintiff's claim for general damages for emotional distress or for an impaired childhood since there was no rational way to measure non-existence or to compare non-existence with the pain and suffering of an impaired existence.

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