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Couple wins $1 million in genetic defect lawsuit

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – A Fayette County couple won more than $1 million from a U.S. District Court jury that found Duke University and a Durham technician negligent for failing to warn the couple of genetic problems that caused birth defects in their, daughter.

John A. and Kimberly M. Gallagher of Dawson, Fayette County, were awarded $1,031,000 yesterday. They had asked for 7.4 million to care for their daughter, Lisa, 3.

The Gallaghers had contended in a lawsuit that Duke University, a university clinic and George H. Mickey of Durham were negligent in handling tests that led the couple to believe birth defects that had killed their first child, Jennifer, would not occur in additional children.

Mickey, who specializes in analyzing the structure of cells, performed tests on Jennifer before her death and concluded that the birth defects did not result from a genetic problem. Based on those results, the couple decided another child was unlikely to have a birth defect.

The Gallaghers contended in their lawsuit not only that Mickey was negligent in reading test results, but that Duke and the Private Diagnostic Clinic should be held responsible because Mickey worked them.

Attorneys for Duke and the clinic argued during the two-week trials that Mickey worked only worked as an “independent contractor” and that the school and clinic had no control over how he conducted the tests.