Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Thin End of The Wedge

Alberta has become the first province in Canada to enact legislation allowing children to sue their mother for injuries suffered in the womb. But only for damage suffered in car accidents.

Lisa Rewega was pregnant when she was in a car accident five years ago while on her way to church. "I just felt so great, everything was perfect and I just never made it there. I hit black ice. I was five months pregnant."

Rewega spent eight months in hospital. Her daughter Brooklyn was born severely brain damaged; blind, with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She needs expensive, round-the-clock care.

In a ruling six years ago the Supreme Court of Canada said an child can't sue it's mother for damages suffered in the womb. But the ruling also left a small and very narrow loophole, saying province's could allow a child to sue its mother, but only in the case of a car accident.

Alberta is now the first province to allow that.

"Had the father been driving, the suit could have been against the father," said Shannon Haggerty of the Alberta Justice Department, "but since the mother was at fault in that case, there was no ability for the child to go after the mother. So this will allow for the mother to also be part of that scope."

So Brooklyn is now suing her mother for damages suffered in the womb. If she wins the Rewega's insurance company will have to pick up the cost of Brooklyn's care.

Jim Rivait, spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says the new law is going to have an impact on insurance premiums right across the country.

"Any time you have an increase in claim costs, it has to flow through to what policy holders pay for auto insurance premiums," said Rivait.

Other are worried the legislation could lead to infringements on women's rights. "For example, suing a woman for causing brain damage in her fetus because she drank or smoked during her pregnancy. And of course the anti-abortion groups could exploit the law as well," said Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coaltion.

Alberta says the law applies only to unborn children injured in car accidents and cannot be expanded.

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