A woman who is suing a liquor company over her son's birth defects testified Friday that she drank herself unconscious several times during her pregnancy, but never was warned that alcohol would hurt her baby.
Candace Thorp, 39, an admitted alcoholic, said under cross examination that she drank heavily during the 1984 pregnancy, even though she had previously been in alcohol treatment programs.David Strauber, an attorney for defendant Jim Beam Brands Co., asked Mrs. Thorp whether she drank herself into unconsciousness every night of the pregnancy.
"At times I did," she said. "A lot of times I did not."
Mrs. Thorp and her husband, Harold, of Seattle are seeking to force Jim Beam to pay for lifetime care of their 4-year-old son Michael, who is mentally retarded and has other birth defects in a pattern known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
They have maintained they would have stopped drinking if they had known it could harm the unborn baby. They say Jim Beam knew of a link between alcohol consumption and birth defects, and was negligent by failing to put warning labels on its products.
Attorneys have said the trial is apparently the first in which damages are sought from an alcohol company for FAS.
The company has denied a link between alcohol and birth defects, but also says any problems that may have been caused by alcohol in Michael Thorp's case were due to Mrs. Thorp's own negligence.
Thorp testified that no doctor ever told her about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, even though she had been in several alcohol treatment programs and had two previous children.
"If I knew it would cause the birth defects it has I wouldn't have drunk," Thorp said, adding that she occasionally read the label on bottles of Jim Beam liquor and that there were no warnings against consumption by pregnant women.
Under cross-examination before the packed courtroom of U.S. District Judge Carolyn Dimmick, a pattern emerged of continuous drinking in the Thorp household before, during and after the pregnancy.
An estimated 30,000 children are born in this country each year with FAS, according to a 1982 study.