Torts I, Pages 490–496

Procanik by Provanik v. Cillo

Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1984

Facts:

Plaintiff contracted German Measles and consulted with the defendant doctors. They said that it was nothing to worry about. Plaintiff then gave birth to a child who had multiple birth defects as a result of the disease.

Procedural History:

The Law Division granted defendants' motion to dismiss and the Appellate Division affirmed.

Issue:

Can the parents of a child born with defects recover when they wanted to kill him before?

Rule:

Bell: Cause of action by parent or child based on negligent medical treatment that deprives parents of the option to terminate the pregnancy to avoid the birth of a defective child.

Reasoning:

Parents do have a right to kill their unborn children, but courts have generally held that any life is better than dying. It is also almost impossible to quantify the value of an impaired life and how much less parents will love a disabled child. Plaintiffs now have to spend money on expensive medical treatments for their son.

Judgment:

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Rule/Holding:

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