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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Adoption Agency Isn’t Liable for Genetic Illness

(CN) - A Jewish adoption agency can't be held liable for a wrongful adoption because schizophrenia was not considered a genetic illness in the 1960s, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled.

Jack and Marlene Halper, along with their son David, sued Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia for their work in handling David's adoption in 1964.

David was hospitalized after a suicide attempt in 1999. After 19 years of searching for information on David's natural mother, the Halpers discovered that the agency had misfiled a letter stating that David's birth mother was schizophrenic.

The trial court awarded the Halpers $300,000 on their negligence and wrongful adoption claims.

The superior court reversed the decision, noting that the Halpers did not present evidence that they would not have adopted David if they had known of the birth mother's problems.

Justice Eakin agreed that the adoption agency did not harm the Halpers in their handling of the adoption.

"Although there was some research in the early 1960s concerning a genetic component in affiliation with schizophrenia, it was a commonly held belief that such a disorder was a product of the environment," Eakin noted. "Because negligent misrepresentation requires a foreseeability element, the superior court's analysis was correct."

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