A Zionville adoption agency is now facing liability after being sued by a couple for failing to disclose information relating to the baby’s drug addiction. The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the previous dismissal of the suit by a lower court.
A Canadian couple, Jesica and Gerson Urbina, sought out the services of A Bond of Life Adoptions (ABLA) to adopt the child of a pregnant woman based in the Noblesville area.
After communication with the agency and the mother, the couple came to Indiana to spend time with the newborn child. Over the span of several days, the couple proudly acquired photos of the infant to share with friends and family. The baby then, however, began to display signs of drug withdrawal stemming from alleged methadone use by the birth-mother during the pregnancy. The hospital began monitoring for problematic symptoms and alerted ABLA. It wasn’t until several days later that the news of their baby’s addiction was shared to the parents, by a social worker.
The couple, horrified at the news, mulled over their options and painfully withdrew from the adoption process, citing that they may not be capable to take care of a special needs child. The couple then proceeded to file a complaint against ABLA for negligence, fraud, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, infliction of emotional distress. On appeal, the court commented with regards to the Urbanis’s breach of contract claim on the basis that vital information gathered by the adoption agency regarding the baby is important to the parents’ decision and should thereby be disclosed.
The family has claimed that they do not believe they will attempt the adoption process again.
The contractual nature of the Urbanis relationship with ABLA allowed for the Urbanis to recover. However, the contract was also relied upon by ABLA to dismiss the claim. According to the contract, there is release which limits ABLA’s liability from claims based upon unknown medical conditions of the family or child. The court’s most pointed concurring opinion, authored by Judge Bradford, identified the problem of adoption agencies hiding behind this clause. Hon. Bradford lists a history of cases where agencies use this clause and “public policy” concerns to limit recovery. The purpose of the clause is protect upstanding organizations when information passed on to the agency turns out to be incorrect. In the Urbanis’s case, ABLA had information that was not incorrect, just unfortunate, and ABLA failed to inform parents making a lifelong decision.
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