Court Cases by LouisianaApril v. Associated Catholic Charities of New Orleans
629 F. 2d 1295 (Ct. App. 4th Cir. 1993)
Christopher April was born in 1984, and adopted by the plaintiffs in 1985. In 1991 the parents sued the adoption agency for "wrongful adoption." The trial court concluded that Louisiana law recognized a claim for wrongful adoption; the appellate court did not reach that issue.
Instead, the court of appeal concluded that the parents had waited too long to sue. The court held that, at the least, the parents had reasonable notice that they might have a cause of action when their pediatric neurologist told them that the child had FAS. The court's opinion suggested the parents were on notice years earlier that the child had serious neurological problems, and that it might not matter that they only learned later that FAS was the cause. (629 So. 2d at 1298). Under Louisiana law the parents were required to file suit within one year of the date when they knew that they had a claim, which they had not done.
The earliest signs of possible FAS were that the child had a small-head (microcephalic), and had a seizure when he was 8 months old. (629 So. 2d at 1296-97).
When the child was two and in day care, the school noted that he was "extremely hyper" and referred his parents to the local board of education. Based on that evaluation, and a finding that his speech development was slow, the school system placed the child in special education at the age of three. (629 So. 2d at 1297). The mother first began to suspect FAS after she read The Broken Cord, and saw the movie of the same name.
Another physician, Dr. Diane Africk, also diagnosed the child as having FAS. "Dr. Africk did not undertake any treatment because none is available." (629 So. 2d at 1297.)
Lambert v. Associated Catholic Charities of New Orleans, Inc.
842 So. 2d 1149 (La. App. 4 2003)
The Lamberts sued the Associated Catholic Charities, alleging that it had misrepresented or failed to disclose key facts in connection with the adoption of their son Jeffrey. Jeffrey was adopted in 1983.
There were signs as early as 1985 that he was not "normal"; from that time on he had behavioral problems and was prescribed a number of special medications. In March 1990 a physician told Mrs. Lambert that Jeffrey had likely suffered a prenatal injury. At some point after October 1990 another physician advised the parents that Jeffrey had FAS. The Lamberts sued in July, 1991.
The defendant sought to dismiss the case on the ground that the statute of limitations had run. The critical question was whether the one year limitations period began to run in October 1990, when the FAS diagnosis occurred, or prior to July 1990. The court held that the period began to run before July 1990. "[K]nowledge of permanent impairment, without a formal diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, is enough to place an adoptive parent on notice and thus trigger the running of [the statute of limitations." (**5). It is unclear whether the critical date was 1985 or March 1990. Decisions in other states hold that the limitations period only begins to run when the plaintiff learn of the existence of FAS.