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Jury Awards $23.5 Million Verdict in Wrongful Birth Case

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Searcy Denney Law Firm Secures Victory for Gainesville Couple

Tampa, FL – (July , 2007) – South Florida law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA announced today that a jury has ruled in favor of a Gainesville couple who sued University of South Florida geneticists over a wrongful birth. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $23,553,000.

Plaintiffs Amara and Daniel Estrada (individually and as parents and guardians of Caleb Estrada) filed a complaint against the university after a USF geneticist, whom the Estradas had consulted after having a child with multiple birth defects, failed to identify the child’s genetic disorder. As a result, the Estradas gave birth to a second child, who was soon afterward accurately diagnosed with a hereditary disorder. The Estradas would not have had a second child if there was a risk of recurrence of their first child’s condition.

“We are happy with the verdict, but it won’t change the fact that the Estradas must now care for two special needs children,” said Chris Searcy, the Estrada’s attorney and partner in the Searcy Denney law firm. “The emotional pain and financial burden caused by the defendant’s failure to identify a blatant genetic disorder could easily have been avoided by a proper medical diagnosis.”

Amara and Caleb Estrada gave birth to their first son, Aiden, on June 28, 2002. The child was born with abnormalities, including a cleft palate, an abnormally placed urethral opening, undecended testicles, and decreased amniotic fluid.

When the couple wanted to have a second child, they consulted University of South Florida geneticist Boris Kousseff. They told Kousseff they would not have a second child if the child would have the same birth defects as Aiden. Kousseff told the Estradas that Aiden’s abnormalities did not indicate any genetic disorder, and they could expect a normal pregnancy.

The Estrada’s second child, Caleb, was born on November 18, 2004 with multiple similar birth defects. The University of Florida geneticists diagnosed him as having Smith-Lemli-Opitz within hours of his birth.

Smith-Lemli Opitz syndrome is the inability to correctly produce or synthesize cholesterol, causing developmental delays and a variety of birth abnormalities. Those with the disease often have heart, liver, or kidney problems; cleft palates; feeding problems; reflux; cataracts; behavioral problems; inability to sleep; constipation; communication problems; hearing deficits; and a weaker immune system.

Because of Kousseff’s misdiagnosis, the Estradas have had to change residences and jobs, and spend much of their earnings on healthcare so that their two special needs sons, who will need constant care for the rest of their lives, can survive into adulthood.

About Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA:

A nationally recognized trial law firm, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A. is committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people affected by negligence, deceit and abuse of power. Over the past 45 years, the firm has represented clients in courtrooms throughout Florida and across the nation.

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"The attorneys and staff at Searcy Denney are some of the most compassionate and caring individuals I have met in the legal field. They work tirelessly on behalf of their clients to ensure the best possible outcome. I would highly recommend them for anyone who is seeking excellent legal representation."
Posted By: Lauren Schumacher