French families of switched babies awarded $2m

Court orders clinic to pay out $2.13m over mix-up that occured in Cannes in 1994, but throws out suit against medics.

    Manon Serrano and her mother have been willing to discuss the case with the media, while the other family has kept a low profile [AFP]
    Manon Serrano and her mother have been willing to discuss the case with the media, while the other family has kept a low profile [AFP]
    Two French families whose babies were switched at birth more than 20 years ago have won more than $2m in compensation.
    A court in the southern town of Grasse ordered the clinic at the centre of the mix-up in Cannes to pay $2.13m, six times less than what the families had called for, according to the AFP news agency.
    The clinic was ordered to pay $450,000 to each of the swapped babies, who are now adult women, $340,000 to three parents concerned and $68,000 to three siblings.
    However, the court threw out a suit against doctors and obstetricians also brought by the family.
    Speaking on French television, a lawyer for one of the families said they were "completely satisfied with the decision" and "relieved that the court had recognised the clinic was responsible".
    There was no question of the families appealing the decision, said the lawyer.
    Sophie Serrano, 38, gave birth to her daughter Manon at a clinic in Cannes on July 4, 1994.
    The baby suffered from jaundice and doctors put her in an incubator equipped with lights to treat the problem, along with another affected newborn girl.
    An auxiliary nurse unwittingly switched them and although both mothers immediately expressed doubt about the babies, pointing to their different hair lengths, they were sent home anyway.
    Hair length
    Ten years later, troubled by the fact his daughter bore no resemblance to him with her darker skin, Manon's father did a paternity test that revealed he was not her biological parent.
    Serrano then discovered she was not Manon's mother either, prompting a probe to try and find the other family who had been handed their biological daughter.
    The investigation revealed that at the time of the births in 1994, three newborns suffered from jaundice - the two girls and a boy - and the clinic only had two incubators with the special lights.
    The girls were therefore put together in one incubator.
    The two sets of parents met their biological daughters for the first time when they were both 10 years old, but did not ask that they be switched back.
    The two families have distanced themselves from each other since the meeting 10 years ago.
    While Sophie and Manon have been willing to discuss the case with media, the other family has preferred to keep a low profile.
    The lawyers' office representing the clinic noted the "significant difference" between the amount requested and the sum the court demanded, acknowledging nevertheless that the damages awarded were "high".
    The lawyers said they were waiting for the details of the judgement before considering a possible appeal.

    SOURCE: AFP


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