Child allowed to sue mother’s employer

Injuries sustained before child was born

The Supreme Court of the state of Washington has determined that there are cases where a family member can sue for damages under worker’s compensation law. Previously, Washington’s strictly-worded legislation was thought to prohibit lawsuits by families and dependants of injured workers.

Verona Meyer was working in a Burger King restaurant when she lost her footing and struck he lower abdomen on a table known as the “Whopper Board.” At the time, her pregnancy was almost full-term. A few hours later, her daughter Patricia was born with severe and permanent physical and mental disabilities.

Meyer and her husband sued for damages for their daughter’s injuries and for their loss of a relationship with her. Burger King sought to have the action struck out on the basis of the wording of the worker’s compensation law. Its motion was dismissed by the trial and appeal courts before going to the Supreme Court.

Courts in Washington and other states have held that a child can sue in negligence for prenatal injuries. In order to be able to sue under worker’s compensation law, however, the Supreme Court said that the third party must be directly injured by the workplace accident at the same time as the worker.

The Meyers claim that Mrs. Meyer’s fall injured the placenta and deprived Patricia of oxygen. That lack of oxygen resulted in Patricia’s disabilities.

The Supreme Court noted that, while a claim for prenatal injuries is difficult to prove, that fact alone “does not prevent the assertion of a legal right.”

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