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In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld the dismissal of a case against the Michigan Neonatal Biobank and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which sought to declare Michigan’s program of screening newborns for chronic diseases and genetic disorders unconstitutional. Attorneys Jeremy Kennedy and Jerry Lax of Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C represented the Michigan Neonatal Biobank at the Court of Appeals and in the U.S. District Court. They successfully argued that the newborn screening program was a valuable public health tool, and that the Biobank has not, and does not, violate the civil rights of newborns or their parents.
Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Lax argued that the newborn screening program is one of the most valuable health tools developed in the last fifty years, allowing doctors to detect the presence of rare disorders in newborns, and, if necessary, allows treatment to begin as early as possible. Over the years, the process, which requires a small amount of blood to be taken from a baby’s heel within the first 24-36 hours of life, has been refined to detect the presence of over 50 different medical disorders, some of which are quite serious. The plaintiffs in the matter sought to undo this good work, claiming that this screening program is, considered an unlawful search and seizure, and seeking damages for alleged constitutional violations. Thanks to the strong legal work by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Lax, as well as attorneys from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the program was upheld by Judge Thomas Luddington of the U.S. District Court, and the complaint was dismissed.
After obtaining a dismissal of all claims against the Biobank at the District Court level, Mr. Kennedy successfully defended that dismissal to a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision by the Sixth Circuit may have far-reaching impact, as it is the first federal appeals court to rule on this issue. While the case will proceed against a handful of individual defendants to look at their actions, Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C. is delighted by the decision to uphold the dismissal of the Michigan Neonatal Biobank from litigation.