Groom v Selby: CA 18 Oct 2001

The defendant negligently failed to discover the claimant’s pregnancy. A severely disabled child was born. The question was as to the responsibility for payment of excess costs of raising a severely disabled child, a claim for economic loss. The child was damaged as a foreseeable result of contamination as it passed through the birth canal. An award of compensation limited to the special upbringing associated with rearing a child with a serious disability was fair, just and reasonable.
Held: (Brook LJ) ‘there was no difficulty in principle in accepting the proposition that the doctor should be deemed to have assumed responsibility for the foreseeable and disastrous consequences of performing her services negligently. The doctor knew that the claimant had been sterilised and wanted no more children (let alone children with serious handicaps) and the duty of care included the purpose of ensuring that if the claimant was pregnant again she should be informed of that to allow her to prevent the birth of another child if she wished. He also found an award of compensation limited to the special upbringing associated with rearing a child with serious disability would be fair, just and reasonable.’
‘The principles applicable in wrongful birth cases cannot sensibly be distinguished from the principles applicable in wrongful conception cases.’
Brooke LJ said: ‘Since [the defendant’s] breach of duty caused the claimant’s pregnancy to continue, when it would otherwise have been terminated, and since Mr Coghlan conceded that the chain of events that took place in this case was foreseeable even if it was extremely rare, then if this was a straightforward personal injuries claim the way would ordinarily be open for the claimant to recover damages for negligence.’
Hale LJ said: ‘It is fair, just and reasonable that a doctor who has undertaken the task of protecting a patient from unwanted pregnancy should bear the additional costs if that pregnancy results in a disabled child.’


Lord Justice Brooke, Lady Justice Hale, And Mr Justice David Steel


[2001] EWCA Civ 1522, [2002] Lloyds Rep Med 1




England and Wales


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An abandoned boat had been left on its land and not removed by the council. Children tried to repair it, jacked it up, and a child was injured when it fell. It was argued for the boy, who now appealed dismissal of his claim by the Court of Appeal, . .
CitedHughes v Lord Advocate HL 21-Feb-1963
The defendants had left a manhole uncovered and protected only by a tent and paraffin lamp. A child climbed down the hole. When he came out he kicked over one of the lamps. It fell into the hole and caused an explosion. The child was burned. The . .
AppliedParkinson v St James and Seacroft University Hospital NHS Trust CA 11-Apr-2001
A mother had undergone a negligent sterilisation, and in due course she gave birth to a disabled child.
Held: The right to bodily integrity is the first and most important of the interests protected by the law of tort. The cases saying that . .
CitedMacFarlane and Another v Tayside Health Board HL 21-Oct-1999
Child born after vasectomy – Damages Limited
Despite a vasectomy, Mr MacFarlane fathered a child, and he and his wife sought damages for the cost of care and otherwise of the child. He appealed a rejection of his claim.
Held: The doctor undertakes a duty of care in regard to the . .

Cited by:

CitedFarraj and Another v King’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Another QBD 26-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after the birth of their child with a severe hereditary disease which they said the defendant hospital had failed to diagnose after testing for that disease. The hospital sought a contribution from the company CSL who . .
CitedMeadows v Khan QBD 23-Nov-2017
Claim for the additional costs of raising the claimant’s son, A, who suffered from both haemophilia and autism. It is admitted that, but for the defendant’s negligence, A would not have been born because his mother would have discovered during her . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence, Damages

Updated: 04 June 2022; Ref: scu.166636