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Smith v. Cote

Supreme Court of New Hampshire
513 A.2d 341 (1986)


Facts

Linda Smith (plaintiff) was pregnant and sought medical treatment from Dr. Cote (defendant). Smith was suffering from nausea, abdominal pain, and a late menstrual period. Four months later, Dr. Cote concluded that Smith had been exposed to rubella. Smith subsequently gave birth to her daughter, Heather (plaintiff), who suffered from congenital heart defects, cataracts, retardation, and hearing impairment due to her exposure to rubella. Smith filed a negligence suit against Cote and other physicians for failure to timely diagnose and treat the rubella and failure to advise her of the potential defects to Heather thus depriving Smith the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision as to whether to give birth. In addition to her negligence claim, Smith sued for emotional distress for the extraordinary maternal care and costs that must be provided to Heather because of her disabilities. Heather joined the action seeking damages for “wrongful life.” The superior court certified four questions to the Supreme Court for review: (1) whether New Hampshire recognized a cause of action for wrongful birth, (2) if such an action was recognized, did New Hampshire law allow recovery for emotional distress, extraordinary maternal child care, and other special expenses, (3) whether New Hampshire law recognized a cause of action for wrongful life by the minor child suffering from the birth defects and (4) if yes, what general and specific damages may the child recover?

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Batchelder, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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