The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Canadian couple in their suit against an Indiana-based adoption agency after the couple learned of their potential child’s drug addiction.
The baby, only days old, began showing signs of drug addiction while still in the hospital. The addiction was inherited from the birth- mother who had abused methadone while pregnant. The couple learned of the child’s condition from a social worker, days after the agency knew.
A Bond of Life Adoptions, the adoption agency operating out of Indiana, originally succeeded in having the couple’s complaint dismissed from trial court. The agency relied on a release clause found in their contract signed by all potential adoptive parents which limits liability against the agency for claims derived from unknown medical conditions of the child or the child’s birth family.
The couple’s complaint, based heavily on a breach of contract theory, cited the failure of the agency to disclose important medical information to the couple which would have affected their decision to adopt. Since the discovery of the condition, the couple withdrew from the adoption process, completely distraught, and has expressed that they will not likely explore further adoption opportunities.
In the court’s opinion overturning the trial court’s dismissal, the court listed an unfortunately long history of adoption agencies hiding behind such releases citing that withholding information is not protected under “unknown medical conditions”.
Adoption providers, such as agencies or attorneys, are often barred from disclosing identifying information regarding the birth parents. However, this does not include medical or psychiatric information which would likely be important for the adoptive parents to know.
Nearly half of the states permit some sort of civil liability against adoption providers for a wrongful omission or commission. One of those states is Florida. Issues like this are another major reason that smart adoptive parents will seek out a knowledgeable experienced family law attorney.
Wrongful adoption suits, recognized in a number of states, vary in the basis of their elements. Most wrongful adoption suits do in some way allege that, through intent or negligence, the adoption provider did not act in good faith to inform the parents of potentially important information. Wrongful adoption claimants typically involve elements of misrepresentation, fraud, negligence, or contractual breach of good faith. Courts look at whether the information not disclosed is “material”. Information is “material” if it would have impacted the adoptive parents’ decision to adopt.
Many couples looking into adoption often explore international adoptions to avoid some of these problems, but US News recently reported on the failures of international adoption providers to diagnose, identify, or explore medical or psychological issues in the child and the child’s family. Plus, suits become incredibly more complicated if not impossible when brought against an international adoption agency.