An Italian woman who was sent home with the wrong parents at birth has been awarded nearly half a million dollars in damages after her biological mother saw her on Facebook. The woman had a difficult childhood, as parents who weren’t her biological kin abused and ultimately abandoned her, she claimed. Read on to find out how it happened, and what both of these unwitting Switched at Birth stars had to say about their experience.
The UK Times reported that a 33-year-old woman named Antonella received the payout in a civil case in Puglia in southern Italy, more than three decades after she was unwittingly swapped with another infant and sent home with the wrong family. “Antonella could have grown up with her real parents, who owned a business, in a stable, well-off home but missed out on all that and has really suffered,” said her lawyer, Salvatore Pasquadibisceglie.
In June 1989, Antonella was born to a woman named Caterina, within minutes that a woman named Loreta gave birth to a daughter called Lorena. “They delivered 10 minutes apart, both with a cesarean section, and it is possible the two babies were mixed up right there in the operating theatre, or else a nurse swapped them by mistake as they were being kept in cots in the maternity ward since they were not wearing identity bracelets,” the lawyer said.
Taken home by Loreta, Antonella experienced a “terrible” childhood, her lawyer said. Her father was abusive and abandoned her, as did her mother. She was left to be raised by grandparents, who surrendered her to foster care. Ultimately, she was adopted by a local family when she was 15.
The real story started to come out in 2012, after Loreta posted a photo of Antonella on Facebook. “It’s a small town so people know each other,” said Pasquadibisceglie. “Caterina saw an incredible likeness of herself, and, knowing that Loreta had given birth at the same time grew suspicious, contacted Antonella and proposed a DNA test. He added: “Antonella said yes and was shell-shocked by the result, although she half expected it since her resemblance to Caterina was so strong.”
Antonella sued the local regional government, and the judgment in her favor was announced this week. Caterina and her husband received about $211,000, and their biological son about $80,000. “The money won’t change what happened, it won’t give me back my past,” Antonella told La Repubblica newspaper. It turns out both women had difficult childhoods, the Times reported. Lorena “was quite a character and had a turbulent relationship with her parents, then got married at 18 and left home,” said Pasquadibisceglie. Lorena is reportedly also now seeking damages in the case of mistaken identity.
In 2015, Lorena told the Daily Mail she “felt physically sick” when the people she thought were her parents revealed what had happened. “They sat me down and told me they had something important to tell me. They said there had been two families at the hospital that day. They said the babies had been swapped. The feeling was terrible—I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know who to call mom and dad.”