Jury Awards Woman $101,500 for Premature Baby Born after Crash

June 5, 2006

A jury in Denver awarded $101,500 to a woman who gave birth to a premature baby following a car accident, rejecting arguments by an insurance company that the baby, who lived just over an hour, wasn’t legally a person.

Shantal Gonzales was 5 1/2 months pregnant when she delivered her son by Caesarean section after the crash last June.

Gonzales was hurt while riding in a car driven by Veronica Mascarenas when it was hit by a speeding pickup truck in a hit-and-run accident. She went to court seeking compensation for her son’s death from Mascarenas’ insurance company, which claimed that it didn’t have to pay because Gonzales’ son was a non-viable fetus.

Gonzales claimed Mascarenas was at fault for turning in front of the pickup truck.

Before the trial began, Gonzales’ lawyer, Chad Hemmat, told The Denver Post there had been no rulings in Colorado before on the issue. However, he said that courts in several states have ruled that, once a baby is born, they’re considered a person, regardless of their viability.

Hemmat didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

A telephone message left after business hours for a representative of Columbia, Mo.-based Shelter Insurance wasn’t immediately returned.

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