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Switched at birth lawsuit continues

A lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston by two 78-year-old men who say they were switched at birth is progressing.

John W. Carr III, Jackie L. Spencer and other members of their families sued the Diocese in June 2020, claiming that on August 29, 1942, Carr and Spencer were sent home from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon with the wrong families. At the time, the church owned and operated the hospital. In 2019, DNA results revealed the error.

On March 1, an order by Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot denied a motion by the diocese to dismiss the case. Lawyers for the Diocese requested the suit be dismissed Dec. 23, 2020. They argued the case was not filed in time and the plaintiffs did not comply with the notification requirements required by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act.

Gaujot found the case was filed within the statute of limitations. A 2016 change by the Legislature in the wording of the law being argued over means the clock on filing the case did not start until the discovery of the switch in 2019.  

Gaujot also found the plaintiffs did not violate the liability act because their injuries, being switched shortly after birth, occurred in 1942 – before the WVMPLA took effect in June 1986.

On Friday, the Diocese filed a response to the amended complaint. It states the Diocese has never owned or operated the hospital. It admits it loaned the Pallotine Missionary Sisters $27,000 but that the hospital was never in any way under control of the Diocese.

The rest of the response largely denies claims made by Carr and Spencer or states there is not enough information to answer the allegations, which is typical of a civil suit response.