The Utah Supreme Court ruled this week that parents of an unborn child who died can file a wrongful death lawsuit against health care providers. The court has not yet released an official majority decision, but four judges on the court agreed that the term “minor child” used in the law includes an unborn child. Chief Justine Christine Durham stated, “a plain language reading reveals that the term ‘minor child,’ as used in this statute, includes an unborn child. . . . . in general usage the term ‘child’ may refer to a young person, a baby or a fetus. The term ‘minor’ therefore may refer to the period from conception to the age of majority, thereby encompassing an unborn child.”

In his dissent, Justice Ronald Nehring countered, saying that the majority’s interpretation was wrong because:

The plain meaning of “minor child” does not include a fetus

A wrongful death cause of action requires clear direction by legislation

The result of this interpretation would ultimately lead to an absurd result under the law

This specific case centers on a baby who was stillborn after a doctor refused a mother’s request to be induced. The woman went to her doctor because of concerns about the baby’s health. She claimed she was ready to be induced because she was 40 weeks pregnant, was experiencing contractions, and had lost her mucus plug.  At this appointment, though, her doctor said that a reduced heart rate in the baby was not unusual at this time in the pregnancy, and she was sent away. Three days later the mother checked into a different hospital having experienced strong contractions. Ultrasound showed the baby had no heartbeat and the woman gave birth to a stillborn baby with the cord wrapped around its throat.

Ohio also allows for wrongful death lawsuits when medical malpractice leads to the death of an unborn child, once the child becomes viable outside the womb.

If you lost a viable child due to a doctor’s negligence, you may be able to receive compensation for your loss. To learn more, please contact the Columbus wrongful death attorneys at Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA today for a free case evaluation.