$50 Million Verdict – Largest Single Verdict in Washington State

In early December of 2013, I had the opportunity to observe part of the trial that resulted in the largest single verdict in Washington State history.

LabCorp and Valley Medical in Renton, Washington were held liable (See Seattle Times Article, $50M awarded over birth defect; test said baby would be OK, December 10, 2013) for a “wrongful birth” of a child born with terrible birth defects.

The Wuth family were the plaintiffs. They knew they had a 50% chance of having a child with an unbalanced chromosome translocation, so they sought out a doctor who specialized in such high risk pregnancies. The doctor sent them to LabCorp who ran genetic testing. Unfortunately, the technician examining the results of the testing failed to look at it under the correct magnification. Had he used the correct magnification, the translocation would have been very obvious. Unfortunately, the doctor did not apparently notify the lab of the possible genetic defect, so the lab did not bother to look extra carefully at their work. Furthermore, the person preparing the report at LabCorp was very inexperienced and he thought his work was being reviewed by a more senior scientist. It was not.

It was my view after observing this trial, that the mistakes were not made by one but by many. It was rather like the sinking of a ship. Usually, it is not just a broken rudder that causes the ship to go down, but instead it is a broken rudder, a massive storm, malfunctioning engine etc.

It was easy to identify with the Wuths who did everything they could to ensure they had a healthy child. It was also easy to see the outcome coming after watching just part of the trial.