WA parents win unplanned pregnancy damages

·2-min read

A West Australian mother who unexpectedly fell pregnant and gave birth years after undergoing a botched sterilisation procedure has been awarded more than $125,000 in damages.

A WA District Court judge has found the boy's parents are entitled to compensation for the costs of raising him after his birth in 2014.

The mother had fallen pregnant with the boy, her seventh child, after having an unsuccessful tubal ligation procedure carried out by a doctor in regional WA.

In findings delivered last month, the judge said the doctor had admitted negligence for which the WA Country Health Service had accepted vicarious liability.

AAP has chosen not to identify the parents or the now-retired doctor who carried out the procedure.

The court heard the doctor had recommended the operation to the woman days before the birth of her sixth child in 2009.

He suggested that it be carried out at the same time as her caesarean birth.

The mother agreed to the operation, saying she understood it had been recommended "because any future pregnancy and birth carried a risk to her life".

"She assumed that the procedure was successfully performed," the judge said.

"At the time, (the doctor) did not suggest otherwise to her."

Four years later, she discovered she was pregnant after going to hospital for treatment in relation to unexplained bleeding.

"I accept her evidence that the news of being pregnant was very upsetting because it brought to mind the advice of (the doctor) at the time of the sterilisation," the judge said.

The boy was born with no major complications and the judge described the now seven-year-old as "healthy and much loved by his parents".

His parents, who represented themselves in court, sought damages related to the mother's loss of earnings, "pain and suffering" and the costs related to raising the boy.

The judge said there was no dispute that the mother was entitled to general damages related to her anxiety about the risk of the pregnancy, her experience of being pregnant and the pain and trauma of the birth process.

The mother also argued the birth had prevented her from seeking work despite having relied on social security payments throughout her adult life.

Lawyers for the doctor and WA Country Health Service argued the mother had no earning capacity and would struggle to find employment given she had a previous assault conviction.

The judge ruled in the mother's favour, awarding her $20,000 for loss of earnings in addition to the $22,000 in general damages.

He also jointly awarded the couple more than $83,000 in damages related to the costs of raising the boy.

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