People commit all sorts of fraud, but perhaps the strangest is when individuals pretend to be pregnant. For instance, a 16-year-old American girl pretended to be pregnant with triplets, but was found out when an organization discovered her ultrasound photos came from a prank site. Regardless of the reason for the deception, if you're the victim of a fake pregnancy (prank or otherwise), you can recover money for any damages or losses you suffer. Here's what you need to do.
Choose a Legal Claim
Since the pregnancy was a lie, you can recover damages based on fraud. The law defines fraud as obtaining any sort of property, money, or valuable service using deceit, falsehoods or other false pretenses. It's also a criminal offense, but whether or not the Crown decides to prosecute someone who pretends to be pregnant will depend on the fact of the case.
There are four elements of civil fraud that you must show in court to prevail:
- The defendant represented she (or he, in the case of transgender individuals) was pregnant.
- The defendant knew, or had reason to know, the representation was false.
- The misrepresentation led the plaintiff to take actions related to the pregnancy.
- The plaintiff suffered a loss as a result of the misrepresentation.
While fraud is probably the most likely tort claim you'll use, you can also sue the perpetrator for defamation if the fake pregnancy causes damage to your reputation. For example, someone who belongs to a religious community that looks down on pregnancy outside of marriage may suffer a loss of reputation as a result of the falsehood.
To prove defamation:
- The statement must affect the person's actual reputation and not a reputation the plaintiff thinks he or she should have.
- The statement must be demonstrably harmful.
- The statement must clearly be about the plaintiff.
- The statement must have been conveyed to a third party.
In Canada, you don't necessarily have to suffer a financial loss to collect compensation for damages related to the defamation, because the law assumes you suffered some type of loss due to the slander or libel.
Possibly the most challenging aspect of the case will be proving the person was not pregnant, especially if the individual maintains there was a child. There are occasions when a person will miscarry and not know. Another issue is some people suffer from pseudocyesis, which is a psychological disorder where individuals believe so wholeheartedly they are pregnant, they being exhibiting physical symptoms of it even though there is no child.
However, it is possible to provide evidence of a false pregnancy. You can subpoena the individual's medical records showing the person was never pregnant. If the person never went to the doctor, you may be able to convince a judge the pregnancy was fake by showing the person exhibited atypical symptoms or behavior.
If the person presented ultrasound pictures, you can do an image search online to see if the images were stolen from a website or provided by a pregnancy hoax site. Testimony from friends and family members who may have been in on the secret can also be immensely helpful.
Ask for Damages
If you prove your case adequately, you can get money for:
- Medical bills
- Money spent on baby supplies
- Moving expenses if you moved in preparation for the baby
- Lost opportunities (e.g. having to quit a job or turn down a promotion)
You can also sue for the mental anguish associated with learning about the hoax, particularly if you had to get the assistance of a mental health professional to overcome the deception. If the person's actions were particularly egregious or offensive, the court may also award you punitive damages to discourage the individual from pulling a similar stunt in the future.
There are many complexities involved with suing for pregnancy fraud. Talk to a lawyer in your area for assistance with litigating your case.