French families of girls switched at birth win nearly $3m in damages

French families of girls switched at birth win nearly $3m in damages
Above: Manon Serrano (L) and her mother Sophie Serrano (R) answer journalists' questions on December 1, 2014 at Grasse courthouse.

GRASSE, France - Two French families whose babies were switched at birth more than 20 years ago won nearly two million euros in compensation on Tuesday.

The court in the southern town of Grasse ordered the clinic at the centre of the mix-up in the French Riviera city of Cannes to pay 1.88 million euros (S$2.9 million, US$2.13 million) - six times less than the families had called for.

The story began on July 4, 1994, when Sophie Serrano - now in her late 30s - gave birth to little Manon at a clinic in Cannes.

The baby suffered from jaundice and doctors put her in an incubator equipped with lights to treat the problem along with another affected newborn girl.

An auxiliary nurse unwittingly switched them, and although both mothers immediately expressed doubt about the babies, pointing to their different hair lengths, they were sent home anyway.

Ten years later, troubled by the fact his daughter bore no resemblance to him with her darker skin, Manon's father did a paternity test that revealed he was not her biological parent.

Sophie Serrano then discovered she was not Manon's mother either, prompting a probe to try and find the other family who had been handed their biological daughter.

The investigation revealed that at the time of the births in 1994, three newborns suffered from jaundice - the two girls and a boy - and the clinic only had two incubators with the special lights.

The girls were therefore put together in one incubator.

The two sets of parents met their biological daughters for the first time when they were both 10 years old, but did not ask that they be switched back.

The two families have distanced themselves from each other since the meeting 10 years ago.

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