BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Two men who believe they were switched at birth nearly 80 years ago are suing a Catholic diocese in West Virginia, alleging negligence and breach of duty by the hospital where they were born.
John William Carr III and Jackie Lee Spencer were born Aug. 29, 1942, at St. Joseph Hospital in Buckhannon. The lawsuit filed Friday in Monongalia County Circuit Court against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says staffers at the diocese-run hospital sent them home with the wrong families, The Dominion Post reported.
The switch was discovered last year when DNA tests showed Carr and Spencer had no genetic matches with the families that raised them but did match the other’s family, the men say in their lawsuit.
Carr, Spencer and their families have suffered a “lifetime of consequences” from the switch and are seeking unspecified damages, they say in the lawsuit.
The diocese does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Tim Bishop said.
Spencer spent more than 50 years searching for the man listed on his birth certificate as his father, he says in the lawsuit. He had been told the man abandoned his mother prior to his birth.
After finding relatives of the man, Spencer took a DNA test to see if he was related and discovered he was not. An additional DNA test also showed he wasn’t related to people he had grown up thinking of as blood family.
It turned out, tests showed, he was really related to Carr’s family — and further digging found that Carr had been born the same day at St. Joseph.
Spencer and his wife contacted Carr, who took a DNA test that showed he was related to the people Spencer had believed were relatives.
Spencer, now in his twilight years, never got to know many of his family members, he says in the lawsuit.
“Many of the people Jack should have known his entire life are gone,” according to the lawsuit. “He feels as though most of his family died all at once. He grieves for the loss of the life he was supposed to have, while reconciling those feeling with the love and gratitude he feels for the family he has known his whole life.”
Carr, who has blue eyes, said he looks different from the family that raised him and always felt out of place.
“Well, I never felt like I fit in here because my mother and dad had brown hair and brown eyes, and so do my brother and sister,” Carr said in the lawsuit.