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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 20:59 GMT
Mother sues condom maker

Marian Richardson Marian Richardson leaves court after claiming 120,000

A woman who says she became pregnant because of a faulty condom is suing the contraceptive's manufacturer.

In the first case of its kind, Marian Richardson is seeking about 120,000 from Durex maker LRC Products, the UK's biggest condoms business.

She says the damages should cover the cost of bringing up her daughter Kara, the pain, discomfort and inconvenience of the pregnancy and caesarean delivery, and the financial loss suffered as a result of becoming pregnant.

Mrs Richardson, 36, of Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft, Suffolk, also says the pregnancy led to the temporary breakdown of her relationship with her boyfriend and forced them to shelve plans to open a health consultancy and beauty business together.

She has won legal aid to pursue her damages claim.

'No guarantees'

Mrs Richardson's claim includes 43,000 for the cost of bringing up Kara, now four years old, 5,000 for the cost of trading in her Renault 19 for a larger car - a Volvo 940 estate - and 39,000 for loss of projected income due to the cancellation of her business venture.

At the start of a scheduled eight-day hearing in London, John Melville Williams QC, for Mrs Richardson, said the case would involve scientific evidence on the damage to the condom.

LRC Products (formerly the London Rubber Company), whose condom instructions point out that no form of contraception is 100% guaranteed, denies supplying a defective condom.

The company says that, in any case, Mrs Richardson could have taken the "morning-after" pill after discovering the alleged defect.

Two children

The action is being brought under the 1987 Consumer Protection Act, which introduced the principle of manufacturers' strict liability for defective products.

But the judge may have to consider whether his decision is affected by a recent House of Lords ruling that no-one suing in a medical negligence case can claim for the cost of bringing up a healthy child, although compensation can still be awarded for pain, discomfort and expenses relating to the birth.

Mrs Richardson, who already had two children, told the court she was unaware that condoms did not offer 100% protection.

Nor did she know the "morning-after" pill was available from a weekend emergency doctor service, she said.

Mrs Richardson said her pregnancy had led to the breakdown of her relationship with her boyfriend, although they had since become reconciled and were now married.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Parents lose vasectomy case
25 Nov 99 |  Health
1.3m damages for unwanted birth
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