Texas Supreme Court Denies Woman Damages After Failed Sterilization Results in Pregnancy

by Ella

The Texas Supreme Court delivered a ruling on Friday against an El Paso woman who sued her doctor for neglecting to perform a sterilization procedure she had paid for, asserting that she is not eligible for damages for emotional distress, physical pain, or the expenses associated with raising the child resulting from her unintended pregnancy.


In a 21-page opinion, the court established a precedent that a mother cannot seek compensation for emotional and physical suffering when medical negligence leads to an unplanned pregnancy and the birth of a healthy child. This ruling differentiates such cases from other claims of medical negligence.


The woman, who had requested a tubal ligation during her third cesarean section birth, is now the mother of an 8-year-old daughter.


“Texas law does not view a healthy child as an injury for which a parent should receive compensation but rather as a life with inherent dignity and profound, immeasurable value,” wrote Justice Rebeca Huddle, one of the nine Republican justices on the state’s highest court.


The opinion, spanning 21 pages, reverses a previous finding by a state appellate court that a wrongful pregnancy would entitle Grissel Velasco, a mother of four, to damages for emotional distress. The Supreme Court’s decision aligns with past appellate court rulings, which state that parents cannot seek compensation for the expenses of raising a child born from an unplanned pregnancy.

The state’s highest court determined that the mother in this case could only recover damages for costs directly related to the negligence that occurred during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period. According to Justice Huddle, Velasco did not provide evidence of such expenses.

Velasco’s attorney, Joe P. Lopez IV, expressed disappointment in the court’s decision, stating that it undermines reproductive rights in Texas.

“If every child was a blessing, there wouldn’t be tens of millions of people practicing birth control every day,” Lopez said in an email to the American-Statesman. “It is a sad day in Texas for women and their reproductive rights, specifically, the right not to have children, or not to have any more children.”

The lawsuit filed by Velasco alleges that Dr. Michiel R. Noe and his practice failed to disclose their failure to complete a tubal ligation procedure that Velasco had prepaid for before her third cesarean section birth in 2014. Velasco subsequently became pregnant in 2015, believing she had been sterilized, and gave birth to a daughter who is now 8 years old.

After discovering her pregnancy, Velasco experienced various negative emotions and physical symptoms, including sadness, depression, anxiety, and panic. She attributed these feelings to Dr. Noe’s failure to perform the tubal ligation procedure and inform her of the situation.

Dr. Noe’s practice refunded Velasco the $400 she had paid for the procedure after learning of her pregnancy. Velasco’s lawsuit alleged medical negligence, fraud, medical battery, deceptive trade practices, and other claims, seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, and the costs associated with raising her fourth child.

The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling comes after the 8th Court of Appeals in Texas found in April 2022 that Velasco had provided evidence demonstrating that Dr. Noe breached his duty. However, the court dismissed Velasco’s claims of fraud, battery, and deceptive trade practices. Dr. Noe’s attorneys appealed this ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.


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